Mup­pet master gets racy in Hap­py­time Mur­ders

Calgary Herald - - MOVIES - MARK DANIELL [email protected]­ twit­

Pup­pets curs­ing, booz­ing, for­ni­cat­ing, us­ing drugs and hit­ting every dive joint in Los An­ge­les. If it sounds like we’re a long way from Sesame Street, don’t worry, we are.

Brian Hen­son, son of Mup­pets cre­ator Jim Hen­son, is giv­ing the world of pup­pets a grown-up spin in The Hap­py­time Mur­ders. Plugged in ads since early sum­mer with the tagline, “No Sesame, All Street,” Hap­py­time fol­lows pup­pet pri­vate eye Phil Philips (pup­peteer Bill Bar­retta) as he teams up with his foul-mouthed ex-part­ner De­tec­tive Con­nie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) to track down a serial killer who is knock­ing off the stars of a 1980s pup­pet sit­com The Hap­py­time Gang.

It’s comed­i­cally vi­o­lent and full of F-bombs, so def­i­nitely not for kids.

“It’s a hard R, which I did on pur­pose be­cause I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh well, I’ll bring the kids any­way,’” Hen­son said in a re­cent in­ter­view. “I don’t want the family that are big Mup­pet fans to come see this movie with their kids.”

Hen­son, who got his love for pup­peteer­ing from his dad, has made plenty of kids’ films. He’s di­rected Mup­pet Trea­sure Is­land and Mup­pet Christ­mas Carol, and he worked on The Great Mup­pet Ca­per and The Mup­pets Take Man­hat­tan.

But the idea of tak­ing pup­pets (not Mup­pets) into an adult sto­ry­line on the big screen in­trigued him af­ter the suc­cess of his Pup­pet Up! live show.

“In that show, I was de­vel­op­ing a new tone of com­edy for pup­pets and what we found was people re­sponded to com­edy that went in a very adult di­rec­tion. So I de­cided to look for scripted ma­te­rial that could em­body that type of com­edy.… And through­out the movie, by be­ing R-rated, we’re able to meet pup­pets who are re­ally dark, flawed in­di­vid­u­als and present them in ways that are be­liev­able.”

Hen­son was em­bold­ened by the suc­cess of Ted — which fea­tures Mark Wahlberg pal­ing around with a foul-mouthed plush bear. Then Deadpool came along.

“It’s an R-rated movie and cer­tainly the su­per­hero genre wasn’t R-rated be­fore. It’s OK to make some­thing that’s ex­clu­sively for adults.”

That in­cludes hav­ing a pup­pet sex scene that comes up with some in­ter­est­ing uses for Silly String (let’s just say you’ll never look at the fun-in-a-can kids toy the same way again). It’s a buzzed­about scene, but Hen­son laughs at the sug­ges­tion that see­ing pup­pets have or­gasms is too taboo for adults who grew up on Sesame Street.

“Even though we’re the big­gest pornog­ra­phy in­dus­try in the world, Amer­i­cans are so weird about sex­u­al­ity on screen. It makes no sense,” he says. “To me, go­ing hard R with sex­u­al­ity is a more in­no­cent choice than try­ing to go hard R with psy­cho killers … You’ve seen pup­pets do stuff for kids and that was fun at that time, but now you’re grown out of that and this is kind of sub­ver­sive and ir­rev­er­ent in a way that only works well for adults … This is a movie ( both) par­ents and kids can (en­joy) — but only if the kids are like 20 years old.”

We’re the big­gest pornog­ra­phy in­dus­try in the world, (but) Amer­i­cans are so weird about sex­u­al­ity on­screen.


Maya Ru­dolph, left, and Melissa McCarthy star along­side pup­pet Phil Philips (pup­peteer Bill Bar­retta) in The Hap­py­time Mur­ders.


Di­rec­tor Brian Hen­son pre­pares a pup­pet on the set of The Hap­py­time Mur­ders.

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