There’s a lot of potential in this racy puppet caper that carries the Henson legacy on, but unfortunately too many of the jokes are lame. Dirty puppet movies aren’t new and while it is always a novelty to have them swearing, fornicating and killing, most of the gags done here have been done better elsewhere, before.
The setting and tone are a lot of fun – I mean, who doesn’t love a lead who’s a chain-smoking failed cop turned private detective making a living in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles? The murder mystery set-up is predictable but perfectly serviceable and the supporting characters are all endearing enough. It’s also cool having puppets treated as second class citizens, even though that allegory is only hinted at rather than explored.
Although R-rated puppet comedy isn’t new, it’s uncommon to have one with such an unmistakably Henson feel. Some of these furry characters even feel like caricatures of their Muppet cousins. Being set decades after the heyday of the titular Happytime Gang gives the whole thing a feel of the Muppets growing disgusting as they grew old and all landing on their knees, or worse.
However, that all adds up to a great base from which great comedy should be grown, and unfortunately that’s where Todd Berger’s script doesn’t deliver the goods. There’s talk of velvet vaginas, a puppet jizzing scene and even a mention of bukkake, but a lack of wit meant I was often sighing where I should’ve been cackling.
I suspect The Happytime Murders will be a hit with a lot of stoners when it gets to streaming services, but if you want to watch a dirty puppet comedy, you should definitely seek out Meet the Feebles or Team America: World Police instead.