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Film / The Happytime Murders

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The Happytime Murders is an R-rated comedy-noir film from The Jim Henson Company, directed by Jim Henson's son Brian and distributed by STXfilms.

In a World… where puppets live alongside the humans as second-class citizens, among them is Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta): a disgraced cop turned private eye. When a new client who's being blackmailed leads him to investigate a porno store that gets hit as a robbery gone wrong... Phil's convinced it was a planned hit, because there was no money taken, and one of the victims was a cast member of The Happytime Gang, a famous '80s TV series that put puppets out into the mainstream. It gets personal as Phil's suspicions are confirmed — when the killer takes out another star of the show: Phil's brother. With Phil's ex-flame, Jenny (Elizabeth Banks), possibly next on the killer's vendetta list, it's up to Phil and his former partner, Detective Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), to put an end to the killer's rampage...

...but how is that possible when all the clues point to Phil being the culprit?

The film was released on August 24th, 2018.

Watch the trailer here.

Tropes include:

  • Addled Addict: Goofer, a Happytime Gang castmate turned homeless male prostitute, is hopelessly addicted to sugar.
  • Advertised Extra:
    • Goofer, the sugar-addicted puppet, features heavily in advertisements. While he is significant to the plot, being one of the targeted victims, he only has lines in a single scene. He appears longer in the Alamo Drafthouse "Don't Talk" PSA shown before the film than he does in the actual movie.
    • The Rotten Cotton Girls, two puppet hookers, appear in much of the promotional material for the film, yet only appear in one scene, in which they offer their "services" to Connie.
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: Lyle, one the former cast members of The Happytime Gang, is now a sugar lord. When Phil and Edwards confront Lyle, he forces Edwards to snort a line of rock candy.
  • Alien Catnip: Sugar can give a euphoric high to puppets similar to cocaine or ecstasy.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Played with. Dogs see puppets as chew toys, so puppets are naturally terrified of them. Phil's brother Larry is killed by the murderer setting a pack of dogs on them. Most were smaller, more cuddly dogs, though, and one officer manages to find a Boston terrier and tagged it as the murder weapon.
  • "Basic Instinct" Legs-Crossing Parody: Phil's client Sandra, a puppet, is interrogated by the human Agent Campbell, while Phil and Det. Edwards watch behind a panel of one-way glass, and Sandra pulls this on Campbell, but it's done so that Phil and Edwards can see, and they notice her red hair doesn't match her purple pubic hair. This ends up becoming a plot point: When they later find Sandra's Room Full of Crazy, they find a picture of a puppet father with his young daughter, whose hair is the same shade of purple. Edwards recognizes the father as the puppet Phil accidentally killed as a cop, and figures out that Sandra's the grown-up daughter, giving her a motive for framing Phil.
  • Big Bad: Sandra White, who wanted to get revenge on Phil for killing her father twenty years ago by killing everyone Phil held dear and framing him for it.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology:
    • Most of the film intimates (and in some cases, demonstrate) that puppets are pretty much animate firm shells of felt holding in fluff that acts like their guts. Yet somehow they have organs — otherwise, where did Edwards's puppet liver come from? Which itself makes you wonder how in the world puppet biology and human biology are compatible.
    • Phil remarks this when he's being beaten by his cellmates in prison:
      Phil: You know I have no bones, right? You're basically just fluffing a pillow.
  • Bloodless Carnage: This film doesn't pretend that these puppets have anything more than the base materials that they're made of. As a result, the murdered puppets look as though someone was being a little too rough with them with fluff flying instead of blood. For the one human victim, she died in a car bomb. And even then, it turns out she faked her death.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Many of the puppets are killed by headshots.
  • Bowel-Breaking Bricks: Mr. Bumblypants excretes plastic Easter eggs when he's held at gunpoint.
  • Brain Bleach: Phil visits a puppet porn shop and comes across a video made of an octopus puppet aggressively milking a cow puppet. It becomes a Running Gag that he can't get that image out of his head.
  • Captain Oblivious: Phil fails to hear the gunshots going on in the porn video store where the murderer went on a killing spree, even though you (the audience) can hear those shots when the camera is on Phil.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Bubbles tells Edwards that she picked the lock to get into the latter's apartment. This comes in very handy when the two need to break in to Sandra's apartment and Room Full of Crazy later. Subverted somewhat in that "later" in this case refers to all of about 90 seconds in total for both doors.
  • Clear My Name: The clues to the Happytime Murders all lead to Phil, and he's got to find the real culprit before the FBI catches his tail.
  • Depraved Bisexual: The Rotten Cotton Girls, named Sheila (the purple haired girl) and Diane (the pink-haired girl). In the scene where Connie is exploring the Santa Monica Pier, she comes across these two and this exchange occurs:
    Diane: Hey, handsome!
    Sheila: Lookin' for some rotten cotton?
    Connie: I'm a woman!
    Diane: That's OK!
    Sheila: Yeah, that's even better!
    Diane: Good time for you!
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: Family sit-com example — almost all of the original cast of The Happytime Gang have ended up involved in some un-family-friendly activities in the years since the show ended; Mr. Bumblypants is a porn addict, Lyle is a drug lord, Jenny is an exotic dancer, Goofer is a homeless sugarwhore, and Ezra and Cara have inbred children. Larry is the only exception, being a relatively normal wealthy-actor-playboy stereotype.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Similar to Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Cats Don't Dance, the colorful wacky characters are a somewhat persecuted minority who are looked down on by the human population and only viewed as entertainment.
  • Dye Hard: In-Universe, it's revealed in a Basic Instinct parody that Sandra dyes her hair orange when it is naturally purple. This becomes a major clue to her real identity as the daughter of the man accidentally killed by Phil's stray bullet.
  • Expy: The fact that the Rotten Cotton Girls are two puppet hookers make them this to Lucy the Slut from Avenue Q.
  • Faking the Dead: Jenny faked her death as part of her role in Sandra's scheme.
  • Fantastic Racism: Puppets are looked down as second-class citizens.
  • Faux Horrific: When the police are retrieving Goofer's washed-out corpse, they warn Phil and Edwards that it's going to be disturbing and they should better look away. Turns out that what they do is just wring out Goofer's body to dry it.
  • Femme Fatale: Sandra seems to pull out the stops to become this, particularly in her second visit to Phil. This is especially true when you discover she was the killer all along.
  • Foil: Larry, to his brother Phil. Larry found great success as a pretend-cop on a TV show, and later in life did his best to downplay his puppet characteristics. Phil was a real cop, who got kicked off the force unfairly, and who both embraces his puppet self and fights against shabby treatment against puppets.
  • Foreshadowing: During Phil's opening driving montage, we see a pair of human women holding the leashes of a pair of dogs barking — at a pair of small puppet people, looking absolutely terrified. Seems dogs (of the animal rather than puppet variety) tend to think puppets are literally living chew toys. This sets up Larry's later death at the hands, er, muzzles of a trio of released dogs.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Phil jokes that FBI stands for "Fuckin' Big Idiots".
  • Going Commando:
    • Sandra, in keeping with the Sharon Stone impersonation, flashes her pubes whilst being interrogated by the police. They're purple, which is a major clue as to her true identity.
    • Bubbles is also doing this, possibly to help get Phil's attention.
  • Good is Not Nice: Both Phil and Edwards, the film's protagonists, although they are the "heroes" of the movie trying to solve a murder case and are policemen, are both foul-mouthed, cruel and in Phil's case even violent. Though this is a movie that's all about averting the image of puppets (and their human characters) being kind-hearted and good-intentioned, so pretty much everyone in this movie is a jerk.
  • G-Rated Drug: Rather ironic for an R-rated movie, sugar and candy are treated as hard drugs for puppets. Edwards who had a puppet liver transplanted into her is snorting rock candy with a Twizzler as if it was cocaine, and it's even said that it's normally fatal for humans.
  • Groin Attack: Phil repeatedly kicks a puppet poacher in the crotch during a flashback and Edwards herself bites Phil's crotch during a brawl between the two.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: The movie's end credits feature behind-the-scenes footage of how the puppets were performed, and includes some of the malfunctions and dialogue slip-ups. In particular, they had an oscillating machine to create the sex scene and it broke down.
  • Humans Are Bastards: In this movie's universe, humans treat puppets like second-class citizens parallel to how ethnic minorities (especially African-Americans) get treated in the United States. Even Edwards can come off as a jerkass such as when she spills milkshake all over Phil's windshield.
  • I Have a Family: Mr. Bumblypants (a white rabbit puppet) tries this on the murderer who's going around shooting puppets.
    Mr. Bumblypants: Please! I have 48 kids!
  • Informed Attribute: Edwards is seen as masculine and sometimes mistaken for a man by several. Melissa McCarthy may not be the most feminine woman in the world, but it's hard for a typical viewer to be confused at her gender.
  • Interspecies Romance: In the film's world, it seems absolutely normal for humans to have relationships with puppets, as the trailer and film shows many human-puppet couples walking on the street.
    • The prostitute puppets have no qualms with hitting on Detective Edwards, who is a human. Ditto a wasted Goofer, although his grasp on reality at the time is tenuous at best.
    • Back when The Happytime Gang was still being produced, Phil had a relationship with the show's token human, Jenny. Jenny's also married to puppet Sandra.
    • It's clear Bubbles, Phil's secretary, cares a lot more for Phil than a typical boss/assistant relationship. Phil feels the same way about her, and at the end of the movie, they agree to have an honest-to-God date together.
  • It's Personal: Phil has a personal stake in the murder case when his brother Larry becomes one of the victims.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Phil. He might be snide and sarcastic for the most part, but he legitimately wants to help people in need and genuinely feels bad for the murders of the Happytime gang, especially his brother, Larry.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: The police and FBI, over the Happytime murders. Phil and FBI Agent Campbell in particular do not like each other.
    Agent Campbell: I'll have your badge for this! I'm in the fuckin' FBI!
    Phil: Oh yeah, what's that stand for, "Fuckin' Big Idiot?"
  • Kids Are Cruel: Depicted in the film's opening that not even human children are merciful towards puppets.
  • Kissing Cousins: Ezra and Cara are a straight example. Their children each have a non-standard number of eyes as a result of inbreeding, and they seem to be incapable of communication other than wordless screaming.
    Edwards: There's a reason why they say "Don't go swimming in your own gene pool."
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: Becomes a Running Gag with Edwards, who is constantly mistaken for male, despite being played by Melissa McCarthy. Edwards is hit on by no fewer than three prostitutes (one of them being a guy) who mistake her for a man. However, two of the prostitutes (who are women) still wish to "service" her even when they are corrected.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Parodied when a few puppets getting murdered by a gun explode with fluff and cotton.
  • Mad Oracle: Goofer's more aware of what's going on with the murders than he seems... but he's too strung out to remember trying to tell Edwards Jenny's wife is the murderer for very long.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Sandra White's blackmail case leads to a plot to kill the stars of The Happytime Gang. It turns out to be a subversion, as Sandra was the killer all along and faked the blackmail notes to make sure Phil was at the murder locations so that he'd take the fall.
  • Muppet: While the puppets are essentially traditional Muppets, created by the Henson family themselves - they're not referred to by that name, as the official Muppets are now owned by the Walt Disney Company. In fact, Henson had previously called them "The Miskreant Puppets".
  • Never Trust a Trailer: A few of the trailers show multiple shots of dead puppets, with Detective Phillips' voiceover saying "Someone out there is killing puppets." This implies the eponymous murders are just some randomly-directed, anti-puppet hate crimes—in reality, only the former Happytime Gang are really targeted, and the driving force behind the film is discovering who did it and why.
    • One trailer depicts a puppet girl crying over another puppet's body as the aforementioned voiceover plays, lumping the death in with the other murders depicted.Turns out the puppet man was killed twenty years before the movie takes place, and this scene only happens in a flashback. It does end up being connected to the other murders, however, just not the way the trailers would have you believe.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: At the climax of the movie, the culprit is holding a gun to Edwards' head, and Phil can't bring himself to take the shot because he's having flashbacks to his past where he accidentally killed the culprit's father. The culprit has an opportunity to get away scot-free — but then she makes the mistake of calling Phil a loser and insulting his manhood. That makes Phil angry enough to take the shot, killing the culprit and saving Edwards.
  • Only Sane Man: Phil is basically the only normal one in the cast, and that includes his human costars.
  • Overly Long Gag:
    • Lt. Banning and Agent Campbell come to Phil's office, while he's having sex with his client Sandra, and have to awkwardly stand and wait while he ejaculates silly string all over the office and his secretary just puts some cleaner on the table. Then he briefly seems like he's done, only to start up again.
    • Also, every single time Phil exhales cigarette smoke.
  • Police Brutality: Phil inflicts a lot of pain and violence upon humans (that includes kids!) as payback for their abuse to even slaughters and body part farming of puppets.
  • Private Detective: Phil, after being released from the force.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Phil is the blue oni (he's literally blue) to most of the other puppets who have happy fun-loving personalities. Bert and Ernie come to mind.
  • Repetitive Name: Phil Phillips.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Edwards manages to find the killer's hideout and it has one of these, with enough evidence to demonstrate that Phil is being set up. Unfortunately, it also has a Self-Destruct Mechanism...
  • Schmuck Bait: The killer's Room Full of Crazy has a cassette player marked with a "Play me!" note. It ends up being the trigger for a Self-Destruct Mechanism that incinerates all of the evidence that would exonerate Phil.
  • Shout-Out: The Russian bulldog gangster is a bit of an homage to Meet the Feebles, which was an inspiration for this film.
  • Show Within a Show: The Happytime Gang, the first sitcom back in the 90s with a predominantly puppet cast to get popularity with human audiences.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Rick James' "Give It To Me Baby" playing during the shootout scene.
  • Stealth Pun: What's another name for the police? The fuzz!
  • Subverted Kids' Show: It's a movie featuring puppets that seem taken straight out from The Muppet Show or Sesame Street... and it's R-rated, featuring lots of swearing and raunchy humour.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Mr. Bumblypants when he's encountered by Phil in the porn store:
    Mr. Bumblypants: I do not have a crippling porn addiction!
  • Tagline: "No Sesame. All Street." There was a lawsuit brought up against this film for this!
  • Token Human: Jenny is this to the Happytime Gang.
  • Tontine: The killer's motive turns out to be a variation on the classic Tontine Motive: The residuals for rebroadcasting "The Happytime Gang" are set up so that each actor gets an equal share - but if an actor dies, rather than his share going to his heirs, the other shares just get bigger.
  • Whodunit: Who's killing off the Happytime Gang?
  • World of Jerkass: Being a Subverted Kids' Show, most of the characters are foul-mouthed Jerkasses who engage in inappropriate behavior.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Phil punches one boy in the face for harassing a puppet.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: Phil is jailed on suspicion of murder. Edwards busts him out to prove his innocence — which is still illegal no matter how actually innocent you were — and they aren't in any trouble about it at the end.
  • You Are Fat: Phil asks Edwards just how many milkshakes she drinks a day.
  • You Killed My Father: Sandra's motivation for getting back at Phil.
  • Your Head A-Splode: When the killer is taking out puppets at the porno shop with a shotgun, their heads explode in popping piles of fluff.