Classical film noir, Muppet style

Nate Borie, A&E Writer

Just when you thought the Muppets were limited to singing, dancing, and trying to teach children the alphabet and how to count, Brian Henson releases his best puppet film in years.

Mixing classical film noir with Henson’s natural proclivity for puppeteering and gut-wrenching comedy, “The Happytime Murders” is a hilarious experience for everyone besides young children. Yes, if you have young children with you, leave them with the babysitter, because this is one film that parents are not going to want their kids to watch.

Now, the original Muppet films rarely showed anything more than just the upper bodies of the puppets. However, thanks to the impressive use of green-screen technology, the filmmakers were successfully able to make the puppets feel more alive than ever before. You get to see them walking down the streets, full body and all. Now, while this may not seem like the greatest visual achievement for a film these days, for a Muppet film it’s pretty impressive, and it made the film more fun to watch.

The acting was, without a doubt, one of the best aspects of the film. Crude and hilarious, all the qualities that make a good comedy film. And while Melissa McCarthy once again boasts her usual, and somewhat annoying trend of comedy where she pretty much insults everyone around her, it’s still enough to keep the film interesting, as well as make any sane person want to role around the floor laughing. And for once, it was nice to see someone who could actually match McCarthy in the comedy department. It’s just surprising that it would come from a puppet voiced by long-time Muppet actor and puppeteer Bill Barretta.

Last, but certainly not least, the story. Basing its story on the classic detective films of the 1950s, “The Happytime Murders” tells the story of retired puppet cop turned private detective Phil Phillips as he tries to find out who is killing the cast of a famous puppet television show and why. Now, usually Muppet films are happy with sing-along songs designed to please adults and children, but this movie takes the road not traveled, and dives into more uncharted waters. The story of “The Happytime Murders” basically takes all the cheerful aspects of previous Muppet films, tosses them into a small box, and buries the box in the deepest, darkest hole ever dug, and replaces them with foul language and enough sexual content to make the film seem almost like a porno. And by depicting this racial division between puppets and humans, the film accurately mirrors today’s growing racial division in our own country.

Overall, “The Happytime Murders” is the first non-musical, adult-centered Muppet film that will have you rolling around on the floor laughing your guts out. I give “The Happytime Murders” a 10/10.