THE HAP­PY­TIME MUR­DERS (15) But th­ese puerile pup­pets will leave you wish­ing that you hadn’t been

Llanelli Star - - Film Reviews -

IN 2003, Tony Award-win­ning mu­si­cal Av­enue Q imag­ined an al­ter­nate re­al­ity in which hu­mans and pup­pets co-ex­ist and two hand-op­er­ated felt char­ac­ters en­gage in vig­or­ous on-stage coitus while a ten­ant of the build­ing sings You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want When You’re Makin’ Love.

The Hap­py­time Mur­ders – a twist on the buddy cop genre with Melissa McCarthy star­ring op­po­site a fuzzy blue pup­pet called Phil – ar­rives woe­fully late to the same rau­cous, ex­ple­tive-laden party with­out the up­roar­i­ous laugh­ter.

Di­rected by Brian Hen­son, whose fa­ther cre­ated The Mup­pets, this filthy-minded who­dun­nit dan­gles loosely on out­landish sex scenes and a homage to Ba­sic In­stinct that serves a nar­ra­tive pur­pose.

At one of the film’s ini­tial crime scenes, a pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor casts a beady eye over a ran­som note and is drawn to a curlicued cap­i­tal let­ter that ap­pears to have been snipped from the pages of an adult magazine.

“This mys­tery was brought to you by the let­ter P,” he growls in a for­lorn ef­fort to prick our nos­tal­gia for Sesame Street.

The gumshoe is cor­rect: Hen­son’s film is puerile, piti­ful, potty-mouthed, pre­dictable, pre­pos­ter­ous and po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect to the point of te­dium.

Phil Philips (voiced by Bill Bar­retta) is a dis­graced for­mer cop in present-day Los An­ge­les who ac­cepts cases on be­half of fel­low pup­pets, who are treated as sec­ond-class cit­i­zens be­cause they are felt rather than flesh and bone.

“It ain’t a crime to be warm and fuzzy. It might as well be,” laments Phil.

When his older brother Larry (Vic­tor Yer­rid), who starred in the pop­u­lar 1980s TV show The Hap­py­time Gang, is tar­geted by a psy­chopath, Phil re­unites with his for­mer part­ner De­tec­tive Con­nie Ed­wards (McCarthy) from the LAPD to crack the case.

“No­body turns my brother into a dog toy and gets away with it!” rages Phil.

His old flame Jenny (El­iz­a­beth Banks) is in the killer’s sights along with co-stars Goofer (Drew Massey), Lyle (Kevin Clash) and the twins Cara (Colleen Smith) and Ezra (Ted Michael).

Phil’s ador­ing sec­re­tary Bub­bles (Maya Ru­dolph) sup­ports her boss as he clashes with Lieu­tenant Ban­ning (Les­lie David Baker) and snarky FBI agent Camp­bell (Joel McHale).

Con­trary to the ti­tle, The Hap­py­time Mur­ders in­spires lit­tle joy. There is fleet­ing amuse­ment to be milked from the on-screen cou­pling of an oc­to­pus and a cow and it’s dif­fi­cult to sti­fle a snig­ger when Phil ‘takes a meet­ing’ with a pretty client San­dra (Dorien Davies) that ends with cries of mu­tual plea­sure.

How­ever, scriptwrit­er Todd Berger re­peat­edly shoots blanks when McCarthy’s cop trades barbs with her hand­made co-stars, and the co­pi­ous drug-tak­ing – pup­pets get high on sugar – is a downer.

The hu­man cast sift through the wreck­age in search of de­cent one-lin­ers but un­earth noth­ing.

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