Cinema Dispatch: Trailer Talk (The Happytime Murders)

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The Happytime Murders is owned by STXfilms and all the images you see in this trailer talk are the property of their respective owners

Directed by Brian Henson

If you follow movie news rather closely (or did a google search after the trailer drop), you’d be aware that this is a project that has been in development hell for quite a few years; languishing at Lionsgate for many years before finally getting switched over to STX in 2015 which is who is finally getting this thing into theaters.  Apparently the story of a hardboiled detective who is ALSO a puppet wasn’t the easiest concept to produce even it sounds like THE GREATEST IDEA EVER, but now that this is ACTUALLY turning into a real film instead of a piece of strange Hollywood trivia, what do I think of what we’ve gotten in the first trailer?  I think it looks pretty good!  I’m a huge Melissa McCarthy fan, and while the joke is PRETTY obvious, there’s certainly potential for it to be really subversive of the cop genre and at the very least very interesting to watch.  I love the puppet designs here and in all honesty the incongruous nature of these goofy looking characters with a raunchy cop comedy isn’t nearly as enticing as seeing awesome puppets on the big screen again.  Sure, we had those two Muppet movies a few years back (this was in development well before those films by the way), but if it were up to me we’d be getting at least three puppet movies a year and in ALL sorts of genres for all sorts of audiences!  So the novelty will certainly be THERE and I’ll surely get a few chuckles out of it, but it needs to have more than just puppets acting crudely in order to be a GOOD film.  If that’s all they have up their sleeves, well Meet the Feebles, Crank Yankers, and TV Funhouse beat them to it.

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“I can’t HEAR you!  Over the SOUND!  OF ME STOMPING YOUR BALLS!!”

This is why I’m so glad that Melissa McCarthy has such a prominent role in this; not just as one of the lead actors but as a producer as well.  I’ll admit that her best work is the kind where she’s not in control of pretty much all aspects of the production (The Boss and Life of the Party are two of the ones she’s had the most control over and aren’t exactly her BEST works) but I genuinely think that she’ll be a strong and positive influence on this.  Let’s be clear right the hell now about one thing for everyone who’s gonna want to invite the comparisons early on.  There is no way that this is gonna be comparable to Meet the Feebles; namely because that was a low budget indie film from the art house scene before gaining a cult status outside of New Zealand.  STX and everyone else involved with the production here isn’t aiming for something that grotesque and morbid which I guess is kind of a shame because we really haven’t had anything comparable to that film since then (unless you want to count Crank Yankers which certainly had some out there moments), but let’s set our expectations to a reasonable level before judging the HARDCORE FILM MAKING bona fides of this new movie.  Sure, it doesn’t do itself any favors with corny taglines such as NO SESAME, ALL STREET and the final joke in the trailer is a pretty bold statement for the level of raunchiness they’re going for, but I get the feeling that this is gonna hew closer to The Heat than anything else; and that’s not necessarily a bad thing!  As much as Meet the Feebles is a fascinating film to watch, there are parts of it that haven’t aged very well (the AIDS subplot, the bafflingly racist caricatures, a plot point about rape, and the uncomfortable final shoot out) and I think making this more of a Melissa McCarthy movie than a Peter Jackson imitation is what’s gonna make this a success and possibly give the green light to a more Feebles like movie down the road.  Say what you will about Melissa McCarthy; even if you don’t like her humor she knows how to make movies people will go out and see, and hopefully something this strange and offbeat (at least as far as mainstream cinema is concerned) can still draw in huge crowds by placing her front and center in the marketing.

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“I released a college comedy with poor reviews between Infinity War and Deadpool 2, and STILL managed to rake in thirty million!  HA HAA!!”

What might be most interesting about this movie, at least until we learn a bit more about it from subsequent trailers, is the story of its production.  You may not have guessed it right away due to the trailer not providing the studios name or even telling you who the director is, but this is a Jim Henson Studios production being directed by Brian Henson himself; the chairman of the company and son of the one and only Jim.  The rabbit hole goes even deeper because this is not under The Jim Henson Company per se, rather it’s under an offshoot banner known as Henson Alternative which has been making mature puppet productions that no one has ever freaking heard of for over a decade now, while also trying to get The Happytime Murders off the ground since its inception.  There’s a live show series called Puppet Up that seems to still be going to this day, they made a pilot for TBS for a late night talk show starring rowdy puppets that didn’t go anywhere, and probably their most successful ventures were Neil’s Puppet Dreams and Simian Undercover Detective Squad which managed to get onto The Nerdist for a bit.  Then again they also had a show called No, You Shut Up! Which lasted a whopping fifty-eight episodes, but it aired on Fusion Television and I have no idea what the heck that even is.  The thing is, I went and found clips of some of this stuff… and it’s not all that good.  It’s FINE in bite size pieces with Neil’s Puppet Dreams probably being the best one due to the fact that the Neil in question is Neil Patrick Harris, but anything longer than a few minutes and the jokes started wear thin.  I’m still HOPEFUL that The Henson Company can pull this feature off given the amount of outside talent they were able to nab (especially Melissa McCarthy), but their track record in this area hasn’t been that great so far.

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“Wait, am I ACTUAL Neil Patrick Harris stuck in a puppet world, or am I Harold and Kumar Neil Patrick Harris who’s blitzed out of my freaking mind?”

So who’s to say what this movie will ultimately be?  I have hope to be sure given the interesting premise and the inclusion of some very talented people, but there’s a bit too much shtick and gimmicky stuff for me to be COMPLETELY on board with it even if it’s already shot up to the very top of my MUST SEE list.  I can’t wait for this to come out, but I’ll be sure to temper my expectations until we learn a few more details.  Still, they could earn a few points with me if they manage to turn Melissa McCarthy into a puppet; at least for one scene!  She’d have the bold confidence and brilliant comedic timing of Miss Piggy with the ass kicking skills of… well, Miss Piggy!  Now that I think about it, how about we just get Miss Piggy to be her partner?

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