REVIEW: It’s hard, as a Kiwi, to give Henson Alternative’s naughty muppet movie a fair go.
Our own Sir Peter Jackson created the definitive grot-core muppet sex-travaganza Meet The Feebles, back in the 90s. The brilliant Smile Time episode of Buffy spinoff Angel, is pretty fresh in the memory, too.
So there aren’t many jokes left to make, or depths left to plumb for this concept – a world where puppets are “alive”, walking, talking second class citizens, looked down on by the “meat bag” humans.
That doesn’t stop lead “human” star Melissa McCarthy giving it one hell of a try.
The story is your classic buddy cop, odd-couple mash up:
Disgraced muppet cop-turned-private eye Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) is forced to team up with the detective who had him drummed out of the force (Melissa McCarthy as Detective Connie Edwards), when he’s implicated in string of muppet murders – including that of his 80s TV star brother.
Add a double crossing femme fatale (Dorien Davies), a former love interest with a dark secret (Elizabeth Banks), a foxy secretary named Bubbles (Maya Rudolf) and trouble in the firm of FBI Special Agent Campbell (Joel McHale), and all the noir pieces are in place.
What’s missing is a sense of lightheartedness and and good humour. Until McCarthy hits her stride in the second act, the film is too, well stupidly gross to be really enjoyable to anyone over 12.
Only no-one in their right mind would let a 12-year-old watch a film where the lead character sprays silly string jizz over everything he owns. Which begs the question: who is this film even for?
Scenes where McCarthy loads up on sugar at a den of muppet gangsters, and tracks down fallen TV star Goofer (Drew Massey) to his flop house crack den, are a hoot. And her natural rapport with Rudolph makes for a fun caper in second act too.
But, while Happytime has a half hearted crack at a subtext – the plight of the second class muppets are an inoffensive analogue for US race relations – it really is a one joke film.
Tragically, that joke isn’t all that funny.