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The Happytime Murders

Created by Jim Henson, ‘The Muppet Show’ became a beloved TV series featuring puppets such as Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. The years since have seen how much influence it has with several Muppet movies and spin-offs. ‘The Happytime Murders’ must be one of the strangest. Directed by Jim’s son Brian Henson, ‘The Happytime Murders’ is more like the ‘Muppets on Acid’ or another version of the infamous Peter Jackson puppet film ‘Meet the Feebles’. Definitely not for young eyes, this is a very adult take on puppets who have grown up and dodging murder at every corner.

In a world where puppets coexist with humans, not everyone is equal. Although puppets are looked on as second class citizens, they go about their lives along with everyone else. One of them, Phil, a private investigator, is on the trail of a serial killer. Formerly a cop until he was pushed out of the Force, Phil enlists the help of his ex-partner Connie (Melissa McCarthy). Learning the killer is targeting the cast of an ‘80’s TV series called ‘The Happytime Gang’, Phil and Connie go on the hunt for a dangerous adversary before they strike again.

Although it doesn’t always work as well as it should, ‘The Happytime Murders’ revels in its twisting expectations. If you enjoy seeing puppets do all sorts of unmentionable things then ‘The Happytime Murders’ is for you. The plot is only a cipher for the unhinged mayhem Henson creates. In some ways he is almost carrying on the work of his father who directed puppet based films such as ‘The Dark Crystal’ and ‘Labyrinth’. Those explored more mature themes which this film continues in its own risqué manner.

‘The Happytime Murders’ gradually throws away the possibilities of this strange world in favour of a more conventional narrative. This is probably its main disappointment even if the human cast and puppeteers are having a great time. Their focus would perhaps have been better spent on further exploring the quirky world they’ve created. Generally ‘The Happytime Murders’ is silly fun even if some of its unspeakable visions will be difficult to eradicate for long-time Muppet fans.

A long way from ‘The Muppet Show’ era, ‘The Happytime Murders’ is a daring departure from what’s come before. The Henson group will likely not try to foul the nest of success too much with more of this type of movie but as a one-off it’s memorable. The days of sweet puppetry rainbow connections seem very distant here as ‘The Happytime Murders’ barges its way through childhood memories.

Rating out of 10: 6

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