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The Happytime Murders
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Happytime Murders is a movie starring both puppets and humans (including Melissa McCarthy), but even though it comes from Brian Henson -- the son of Jim Henson and a veteran of Muppet movies -- this is absolutely not for kids. It's extremely vulgar, with heavy sexual innuendo, sex jokes, sexual imagery, and more. Puppets have graphic sex, with a scene of ejaculation; there's also a shot of a puppet vagina and pubic hair and a scene set in a porn shop. Language is constant, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "c--k," "p---y," and many more. Puppets are shot with guns (white fluff explodes everywhere), and there are fight scenes, explosions, and more. Puppets are addicted to sugar as if it were a hard drug, and puppets and humans both smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. Weed is referenced. There's more emphasis on shock value than on being entertaining or inventive.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS, private detective Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) lives in a world in which puppets aren't viewed as humans' equals. Phil was once a cop, partnered with Detective Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), until a mishap cost him his job. Then a pretty puppet, Sandra (Dorien Davies), walks into Phil's office and hires him to look into a blackmailing. His first clue brings him to an adult video shop, where a masked killer shoots everyone in sight, including the bunny Mr. Bumblypants (Kevin Clash), who was once on the popular 1980s TV show The Happytime Gang. Phil learns from his brother, Larry (Victor Yerrid), that the show is going to be syndicated, which will bring in new cash for the cast. But then Larry is also murdered. As Phil investigates further, now reluctantly re-paired with Detective Edwards, other members of the Happytime gang meet their ends, with Phil nearby each time. Can Phil and Edwards solve the mystery before Phil gets blamed for the murders?
Is it any good?
Despite some good ideas, a likable cast, and a halfway decent mystery, this vulgar, naughty puppet show is far more interested in being juvenile and shocking than in being entertaining or inventive. Brian Henson, son of the legendary Jim Henson and the director of The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, somehow thought this was a good idea, even though movies like Team America: World Police, Ted, and Sausage Party already pushed the envelope for raunchy humor in otherwise "kid"-oriented formats.
None of the so-called envelope-pushing humor here is funny -- not puppet sex, not puppets being addicted to sugar like a drug, and not the heavy swearing. Unfortunately, that stuff makes up most of The Happytime Murders. McCarthy is, as usual, amusing, and she shares some fun chemistry with Phil's character. But ideas like puppet "racism" and sugar addiction are barely explored, plopped casually into the movie as if they, too, were simply jokes. The movie is paced well and the story isn't bad; if only it could have focused on something other than tired, nasty humor, it might have been worthwhile.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Happytime Murders depicts addiction. Does it seem any less intense because the characters are puppets or because they're addicted to sugar? Are these sequences funny?
How violent is the movie? Does the violence have less of an impact because it involves puppets?
How is sex portrayed? What values are imparted?
How does the movie's over-the-top humor compare to the more wholesome humor of the Muppet movies?
What does the movie have to say about discrimination? Does it offer any lessons that can be applied to real life?
- In theaters: August 24, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: December 4, 2018
- Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Bill Barretta
- Director: Brian Henson
- Studio: STX Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Puppets
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong crude and sexual content and language throughout, and some drug material
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.