The Happytime MurdersOverview -
The Happytime Murders comes to 1080p Blu-ray from Universal Studios, along with a DVD and Digital Copy of the film. In a world where puppets and humans coexist, two former police officer partners team together to solve a string of murders related to a TV show. Brian Henson directs Melissa McCarthy and a string of puppets in this vulgar R rated noir comedy that misses the mark more than it hits the target. The video presentation is good, while the DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio mix is sorely underused. There are several bonus features here that are fun enough to watch, but never last more than three minutes. Give It A Rent if interested.
When the puppet cast of an '80s children's TV show begins to get murdered one by one, a disgraced LAPD detective-turned-private eye puppet takes on the case.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
For those of us who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, Jim Henson and his Muppets were a big part of our lives. Kermit the frog and Miss Piggy were with us almost every week in some form or fashion. As we grew older, I imagine most of us had a thought of "what if Jim Henson and co. made a gritty Muppet movie that was rated R and only for adults?" I know I thought that from time to time. And then Jim's son Brian took the reins of the Muppet studio where he and writer Todd Berger thought up a storyline to actually bring an R rated Muppets to the big screen. A storyline which turned into The Happytime Murders.
Sadly, the film just doesn't add up to any enjoyment and is forced all the way in its comedy and delivery. On the other hand, the visual effects and puppeteering are top notch and look insanely good. I just wish every other aspect of the film was decent enough to strike a smile or even small laughter, but it doesn't. Jokes and vulgar pieces of dialogue don't serve a purpose to forward the story. Instead, they're just there to make you uncomfortable and garner a cheap chuckle, which they rarely do if at all.
The Happytime Murders is set in a world where puppets and humans coexist, and follows an ex LAPD officer now turned private investigator puppet named Phil. A puppet lady comes to his office and says she is being blackmailed for money and needs help, so he takes on the case. Soon after doing some investigating at some sleazy locations around town, several puppets and people turn up brutally murdered, who all have a connection to a cancelled puppet TV show called The Happytime Gang. Phil enlists the help of his former LAPD partner Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) to weave the drug-fueled and porn addicted streets.
This is actually a decent setup for a murder mystery yarn, but the screenplay is just downright atrocious. The supposed twists and turns can be seen miles away and never really pay off in the end. There's an attempt at mixing a violent noir film with comedy, but the combination fails at every turn. Melissa McCarthy is there on screen, but that's about it. She's there just to exist and never really brings anything to the role. Any other warm body could have filled those shoes. It's not necessarily her fault here, but rather the poor screenplay doesn't play to her strengths. I've enjoyed McCarthy in a number of movies and TV shows, but this is not one of them unfortunately.
The Happytime Murders could have benefitted from a big script overhaul from better writers to mix a cohesive batch of comedy and vulgarity with a bit of a message and sincere characters. It's just unfortunate that we probably won't get another attempt at something like this for a long time.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Happytime Murders comes with a 1080p HD Blu-ray Disc, a DVD copy, and a digital code insert. The discs are housed in a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
The Happytime Murders comes with a 1080p HD transfer in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Despite being a Muppet movie of sorts, the film doesn't have the bold and beautiful color scheme that we've seen in prior Muppet movies with bursts of primary colors around every corner. Instead, this film has a darker color palette for sure, just like its themes and tone. The seedy underbelly of the clubs and other settings here are darker in nature with moldy greens and various shades of black, which look a little washed out from time to time. Other brighter colors on the puppets themselves look great and add a much needed depth of color to each scene.
Detail is sharp and vivid as well with the textures of each puppet showcasing the fine craftsmanship that went into creating each character. Humans showcase facial pores and individual hairs as well. Black levels are deep and inky and the the skin tones are natural. I'd also like to add that there is a fine layer of film grain here to give that filmic noir look to the image, which I enjoyed, making this a fine video presentation.
The Happytime Murders comes with a DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio mix, which is very strange, because the track does not utilize this big soundscape. Most of the film is centered on the front speakers and mostly the center channel. In fact, it's almost an hour into the film before any kind of action or explosion of sound occurs which resonates on the subwoofer and surround speakers. And after that, the big noises are sparse.
Dialogue is cleanly rendered and clear, free of pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills. Sound effects are decent enough but never pack a big punch. The score always adds to the odd mix of suspense and lack of comedy, but is overall forgettable. I'd say this audio mix could have easily been just a stereo 2.0 mix and it would have been better, since nobody employed a big sound design.
An audio commentary track along with deleted scenes and some very short behind the scenes on the visual effects film make up these bonus features.
- Audio Commentary - Director Brian Henson and Puppeteer Bill Barretta discuss making the film, the constraints of the puppeteers and the sets, and mixing the story with the comedy. It's a decent commentary track.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 15 Mins.) - There are six deleted scenes, all of which are worth your time if you like the film.
- Gag Reel (HD, 3 Mins.) - A montage of missed cues, flubbed lines, and laughter on the set.
- Line-O-Rama (HD, 3 Mins.) - Alternate takes of different lines of dialogue.
- Virtual Environments (HD, 2 Mins.) - A quick look at the use of green screen and puppets in the movie.
- Avatar Demo (HD, 3 Mins.) - This focuses on the motion capture performances to perfect the puppet movements.
- VFX Breakdown (HD, 4 Mins.) - More on the visual effects used in the movie and how they did it.
- Trailers (HD, 5 Mins.) - Two trailers for the movie.
The Happytime Murders misses the mark by a long shot on almost every level. It's unfunny, forced, and simply not enjoyable. I will say that it is a technical achievement for what the filmmakers and puppeteers have done to make these non-human characters seem realistic. I was impressed for sure at this level of commitment. Otherwise, the movie is a dud, which is unfortunate because it could have been something great. The video and audio presentations are both good and the extras are decent, but rather short. This is a bargain buy at best, but if you're interested that much in this puppet world, Give It A Rent.
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