Review – Kermit On Crack (“The Happytime Murders”)

What. The. Hell. This is one seriously messed-up movie starring Melissa McCarthy, whose career has now officially hit rock bottom with this film that has her playing a cop against F-bomb dropping R-rated Muppets. OMG! Remember what happened to Whoopi Goldberg and Theodore Rex?
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Somewhere between
Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Theodore Rex lies this impossibly weird and diabolically strange movie where our universe is inhabited by humans and puppets that coexist side-by-side. Now, this has been done before (and quite successfully) with all the Muppet movies, but this creation is on a whole new wavelength. It’s present day L.A. and puppet Phil Phillips (voiced by Bill Barretta) is your A-typical disgraced & grizzled ex-cop turned private eye, working out of a seedy office in Chinatown. While his human secretary, Bubbles (Maya Rudolph), does her best, his clientele isn’t the best.

But just as an over-sexed puppet named Sandra (Dorien Davies) gives Phil some work to do, he stumbles into a series of puppet murders. It looks like the cast of the 80’s TV sitcom, The Happytime Gang, are being targeted one by one by a mysterious assassin. Against his wishes, Phil is re-teamed with his old human partner, hard-core detective Connie Edwards (McCarthy) to find out who is bumping off these puppets. Following clues (and dead fuzzy bodies), they discover that the cast members signed an odd contract where, whoever was the last one left alive, gets $10 million! Can you say, “Motive”?

But while Edwards and Phillips are constantly going at each other like cats and dogs, Phil is accused of being the killer and it’s up to Edwards to clear his name. But who is really behind all the murders and will he (or she) be brought to justice? Will Phil’s name ever be cleared? Will Edwards stop being such a louse and accept Phil for who he really is? And what is up with that talking crab on the Venice boardwalk? That was just creepy.

Okay, so once you get past the gimmick of puppets and people interacting together, dropping F-bombs galore, being raunchy and pretty gross, it all boils down to story content and comedy. Sad to say, this movie has precious little of both. This is Todd Berger’s first screenplay (as he’s only done short films) and it’s clearly written for it’s shock value. Filled with gaping plot holes, it raises SO many questions about puppets: they’re made of fluffy stuffing, yet they can get pregnant and have kids? They have  internal organs that can get transplanted into humans? How exactly does THAT work? But the main problem is substituting puppet gross-out humor for real comedy. It just doesn’t work here.

Director Brian Henson, son of the legendary Jim Henson (who’s spinning in his grave), knows his way around a Muppet universe for filming, but this lame script tries SO HARD to be funny because… puppets doing and saying really raunchy things is hilarious, right? McCarthy is clearly out of her element here trying to act against an emotionless piece of felt that never blinks. The only time she gets to shine and have some fun is the short time she and Rudolph are together. And to see the talented Joel McHale and Elizabeth Banks in this as well breaks my heart. This movie wanted to be so much more than what it turned out to be; an unfunny R-rated Who Framed Roger Rabbit with puppets instead of cartoons.

Theodore Rex (1995)

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Every actor has a film they wish they NEVER made. For Whoopi Goldberg, this is it. An embarrassment beyond belief put on celluloid that she made about a police detective partnered up with a living, breathing, and talking dinosaur! How bad was it? Goldberg tried to quit and was sued for it! Now, that’s BAD!

Imagine this: an alternate, futuristic universe (full of primary colors like Dick Tracy) where anthropomorphic 6-ft talking dinosaurs co-exist with us. Yeah, you read that right. If you ever saw Muppet creator Jim Henson’s TV show, Dinosaurs, in the early 90’s you’ll recognize his large-scale puppets here. Anyway, a tough human police detective named Katie Coltraine (Goldberg) is partnered up with a cop T-rex named Theodore “Teddy” Rex (voiced by George Newbern) to find out who’s killing off other dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.

Naturally, Katie ain’t too keen on having a dino as a partner, especially one who’s a recovering carnivore (he only eats cookies now!), tells awful jokes, and even does worse impersonations. They check out clues, leading them to the Extinct Species Club (ripping off The Ink & Paint Club from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), an all-dino nightclub. They find out the murders may by linked to ruthless billionaire Elizar Kane (Armin Muehller-Stahl), the wacko who brought the dinos back in the first place with his bizarre experiments. But Kane gets wise to Katie & Teddy’s  investigations and sends assassin Edge (Stephen McHattie) as his bumbling cronies to kill them… which never works.

Meanwhile, their investigations with the Toymaker (Peter Kwong) yield results; Kane’s plan is to wipe out the Earth with a rocket and then re-populating it! Oh no!! Looks like it’s up to a human and a really dim-witted, accident-prone, idiotic large piece of sculpted foam to save the day! Hooray? In his one and only theatrical release, writer/director Jonathan R. Betuel (he wrote The Last Starfighter) actually retired after this movie, facing a boatload of Razzie Awards and a barrage of hatred for his film. But let’s face it, watching this movie you can’t but help feel that he was on some kind of hallucinogenic when he wrote and directed it.

Fact is, 99% of the crew quit and had to be replaced by the end of production, along with Goldberg being sued for $20 million for breach of contract when she tried to quit. She settled for $7 million and YIKES! You can tell she is NOT having a good time on screen making this movie! Also in this of cinematic schlock is Richard Roundtree (the original Shaft) and Bud Cort from Harold and Maude. Hey, sometimes you just need the money! This is one truly awful movie, but me telling you this cannot begin to express just how bad it really is. Watch it (it’s on YouTube for free) to see just how cringingly terrible this crapola is!

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