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Monday, August 20, 2018

The Happytime Murders: Let’s All Have A Good Time By Nicholas Napoli

When I first learnt about The Happytime Murders, I was very excited, I was enthusiastic that The Jim Henson Company were developing a new puppet movie, a dream come true for Henson fans. At the same time I learned it would follow along the same lines as their more adult oriented puppet productions, this had me anxious, being a life long Muppet/Henson fan, it’s hard for me to view puppets in an R-rated manner. Ironically one of my favourite shows is South Park, I can enjoy this kind of adult humour, only if it’s clever and not just random for the sakes of shock value or cheap laughs. In my opinion South Park is a very clever show, mixed amongst nonsense for good measure, I hope this movie is just as clever. It’s not necessarily the humour I associate with puppets but I do find this humour entertaining, when done right. I remember over fifteen years ago, eagerly ordering Meet The Feebles via Amazon when I learnt about the films existence. It was a fun movie, traumatized me though, but I can’t really say it ruined my childhood. I haven’t watched Meet The Feebles in over ten years, if not more, honestly I don’t even remember much about it, I might give it another watch soon. 

I don’t think Muppet Fans are the target audience for this movie, although that doesn’t mean we won’t enjoy it too. Marketing wise this isn’t necessarily a bad move, as I do believe there is a bigger non-Muppet audience, who would enjoy this Puppet style movie more than a Muppet movie. Imagine, if you were not a Muppet fan, would you feel differently about this movie? I might be mistaken, but I get the feeling that Non-Muppet Fans will absolutely love this movie, whilst die-hard Muppet Fans will be a little more sceptical of it. The R-rated, animated, 2016 movie Sausage Party, were basically rude cartoons, if I had been a fan of family friendly animated sausages my whole life, would I have felt differently about this movie? I was excited to watch Sausage Party after I saw the trailer, when I finally saw the movie, I enjoyed it. When it comes to puppets though, for some reason my mind associates all puppet entertainment as somewhat family friendly entertainment, rather than R-rated. I’m out of my comfort zone here, this isn’t what I expected or what I’m used to, when it comes to puppets. At the same time, I am excited to watch this, and am truly hoping it’s good enough to warrant a sequel and even some merchandise, I want a Phil Phillips action figure.

I come from a very small community, in all my thirty-one years, I’ve never found anyone around me, as excited as I always am, to watch a Muppet movie at the cinema, on the day of it’s release. However recently I’ve had many friends, family, co-workers and even my dentist, excitedly informing me about how eager they are to watch this new movie, they’ve never laughed so hard, granted not Muppets, it is puppets. I’m enjoying this experience, every time I begin a conversation regarding The Happytime Murders, not only do those around me know what I’m talking about, they’re eager to continue the discussion. Ironically not once do they comment on the puppetry, that’s not one of their interests, it’s the fact that puppets are being naughty. After the shock of watching the trailer the first few times had passed me, I was able to begin enjoying what it was, I was actually watching. As an R-rated puppet comedy, I’m enjoying every joke I’ve seen so far, I’m now hoping that when I watch the movie, these jokes will flow alongside an enjoyable storyline. 

In this recent Brian Henson interview, he makes some very interesting points and addresses the concerns I had regarding the humour. “As long as you do it right, it was hilariously funny, if you did it wrong, it just became gross and stupid, but if you did it right, it was hilariously funny”. This is very important, I’m very happy Brian Henson is aware of this, his entire interview is very promising, not only does it ease my fears, it excites me even more. This movie has been in the making for over fifteen years, fifteen drafts have been produced, that’s one rewrite per year, meaning this script has had plenty of time to be polished and perfected. The key to a successful movie in my opinion, is multiple rewrites, only if done by the same writer each time. I believe this was the case with the writers of The Happytime Murders, with a little input from Brian Henson and Melissa McCarthy. Brian Henson comments on how The Muppets would act somewhat naughty when off camera, Fran Brill even gave a good example of this on Muppet Guys Talking. If me and my friends were playing with puppets, I imagine the funniest moments would be when the puppets are acting inappropriate. At the same time, is this a kind of comedy, which only works if you are there present in the moment? If attached logically to an intriguing storyline, I’m sure it can work.

The puppetry looks amazing, puppets lifting weights, puppets stomping on humans, walking amongst humans, that is also something I really admire. How well these puppets seem to blend into the real world, something I’ve always believed The Muppets should do more of. Whatnots and other no named characters need to appear mixed amongst the humans in the background. It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie accomplished this well, although this is not a Muppet movie, I am intrigued to see puppets and humans living together. To the point where one is prejudice against the other, this is probably the storyline I’m most eager to see play out. There’s a whole new cast of Henson puppets, plus recurring obscure characters, I’m really liking these character designs and am also eager to spot existing obscure characters throughout the movie. As much as I’m anticipating this movie, I hope Kermit, Elmo or Uncle Travelling Matt never makes a cameo. 

I Recently the cast of The Happytime Murders have begun making appearances promoting their movie, they seem to be everywhere. The important thing for me is, I’ve come to realize, these are well developed characters, they all have a reason, a backstory, for being the way they are. These puppets might not consist of a frog, a pig and a bear, but rather drug addicts, prostitutes and killers, it’s a different kind of comedy, using the same artistry we’re all familiar with. From what I can tell by the promos and advertisements, theses aren’t one-joke characters, these are actually well fleshed out characters, who I hope we can see more of in the future. Bill Barretta plays Phil Phillips and after being introduced to Phil Phillips, I can’t imagine anyone else in that role besides Bill. Kevin Clash returns to Henson fandom performing Bumblypants and Goofer is hilariously performed by Drew Massey. 

My friends and co-workers keep telling me, they’ve never been so eager for the release of a movie, all I heard for months before then, was all about Avengers Infinity War. Now they are all talking about The Happytime Murders and how excited they are to watch it. Truth be told, the closer I get to finally being able to watch the movie, the more excited I get for it, I too am realizing, I have not felt the anticipation to watch a movie this badly since Muppets Most Wanted. That means something to me, although not a Muppet movie, it’s not every day I feel excited like a child, waiting for the release of a movie. I think what I’m most eager, is for the theatre experience alongside my friends and a room full of strangers, gasping and laughing uncomfortably. Will I enjoy this movie? I’ll know after I watch it, but as of right now, I’m keeping an open mind, and if the jokes I’ve seen so far, flow along with an interesting storyline, I’ll be excited for a sequel. 







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