Happytime Murders
'The Happytime Murders' shows a different side of the classic childhood franchise. (Image via NC)
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Happytime Murders
'The Happytime Murders' shows a different side of the classic childhood franchise. (Image via NC)

The dark puppet show is a 180-degree turn from your usual ‘Sesame Street.’

For decades, the world has known the Muppets as one of the most popular children’s franchises in history, and the show has spawned a number of iconic characters, including Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. From television shows to movie musicals, the band of live-action puppets have been seen everywhere.

But, because it’s 2018, a group of Hollywood execs decided it was time to present a different side to the story. “The Happytime Murders” introduces a world inhabited by puppets and humans alike, but with a raunchy twist the likes of which those lovable on-screen puppets have never seen.

The movie follows a detective by the name of Philip Philips, a puppet desperate to find a breakthrough in the midst of a handful of unsolved puppet murders around the city. His partner is none other than the hilarious Melissa Mcarthy, and the two scour the city to solve the crimes.

Complete with a mess of crime and murder, sex, drugs and vulgar language, the movie will shock audiences in ways they had never imagined. A rather extravagant attempt to tell a new take on a live-action puppet movie, “The Happytime Murders” looks to blur the line of what actually goes down behind the scenes of a puppet set when the kids aren’t watching.

The film, which was created and directed by Brian Henson, the son of one of the creators of “The Muppets,” Jim Henson, is clearly heavily influenced by the children’s franchise. The movie has appeal in the sense that it’s a completely new take. I’m sure that this idea was messed around with for years, but nobody had the guts to do it, for obvious reasons.

The brand has been built for years to appeal to children, and as a result has cemented that reputation with its audience. By now immersing the puppets in adult themes though, the producers really risk upending their audience’s childhoods.

But a movie this brutal in content couldn’t possibly share the same universe as “The Muppets,” right?

It turns out, Henson knew that. Although “The Happytime Murders” shares a striking resemblance to “The Muppets” in every way, the director has said countless times that the two are unaffiliated. As hard to believe as that sounds, that’s their case and they’re sticking to it. In fact, representatives for “The Muppets” were outraged by “The Happytime Murders” and brought a lawsuit their way for brand defamation.

Rightfully so, you’d think at least. Most people have seen the Muppets at one time or another and recognize the character likenesses as friendly and clean. Fans might not take lightly to watching characters shockingly similar to their childhood idols partake in sex, drugs and murder on screen.

The “Happytime Murders” takes a dark twist to the classic children’s franchise. (Image via St. Louis Dispatch)

Unfortunately for the Muppets, “The Happytime Murders” won the lawsuit on the grounds it attempted to avoid affiliation in marketing and does not reflect the world of the Muppets. By avoiding specific character references and all in-movie notions that could be linked to the Muppets or “Sesame Street,” “The Happytime Murders” prevailed.

This came as a rather interesting conclusion, considering that “The Happytime Murders” clearly made an effort to remind viewers of a circumstance involving Muppets. One of the trailers for the movie even features a tag line that seemingly defames the Muppets, claiming that the movie is “no sesame, all street.” The marketing team really must’ve done their research, cause it seems as though they got away with this one with the skin of their teeth.

The film explores the world of murder, crime, drugs, sex and puppets. (Image via Collider)

It’s clear that one of the goals of the movie is to generate shock for their audience. Just another movie about some puppets isn’t anything new, but if you take that same likeness so many people are familiar with and flop it on its head, the results can surprise people.

Adding a comedic cast with some well-known names can even sweeten the deal. Now we have “The Happytime Murders” out in theaters, ready to ruin everyone’s childhood. It’s something that nobody knew could ever exist and, of all times, it was created in the socially progressive year or 2018.

This is probably why the movie tanked at the box office in its opening weekend. Its appeal is to raunchy comedy fans, but, in a lot of ways, misses its mark by being extremely over-the-top. In all, it does a good job at casting a bad light on a children’s franchise that’s been loved for so many years.

Many may think the movie has comedic value, but it’s safe to say that most people might want to pass on spending a few bucks to ruin their childhood.

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Joey Cunningham

University of Arizona

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