Jarrod Fairclough – Many moons ago, we first heard the rumblings of a puppet detective movie being made by The Jim Henson Company, The Happytime Murders. Then, surprisingly, the thing went in to production with Melissa McCarthy attached, delighting both puppet fans and comedy fans. And then this past Friday, the trailer dropped, and things got divisive. Take a look at the full trailer below, and full warning, it’s not safe for work:
Now, if you’re like me, the first thing you’ll notice is that this trailer is pretty filthy. There’s swearing, there’s violence, and there’s a use for silly string I never really thought of before. And while I’m no stranger to crude humour (some who know me may say I’m even a big advocate for it) even I thought once or twice, ‘That seems a little gratuitous’. I get that crude humour works on some level, but packing a 90 minute film in to a 2 minute trailer and only showing the innappropriate stuff just seems kind of unnecessary.
Reactions to the trailer have been mixed. Some are super excited at the idea of puppets saying dirty things, and others are horrified at the suggestion that Henson could produce something like this. But, I’m nothing if not an optimist, so I had a chat with a guy who puppeteered on the film (who I’ve chosen to keep anonymous) and asked him just a couple of questions concerning the 2 biggest things from this trailer that concerned me.
Number one; The crude nature of it. If the whole film is nothing but sex jokes and swear words, it’s not going to reflect well on anyone. Yet my source tells me this trailer hit that aspect particuarly hard, and likened it to ‘If someone made a trailer for Avenue Q and only showed the sex scene and porn song’. To quote him:
The whole movie isn’t like that. Like most movie trailers, there needs to be enough to grab your attention and that’s what this trailer managed to do. But throughout the full thing, there are some really heartwarming, dramatic, and sad moments.
So that’s a bit of good news for you all who were a little turned off by the crude stuff, but my second concern had to do with the fact that this trailer leaned in hard on the Sesame Street / Muppets connection. And look, I get why they’re doing it, as much as I detest the ‘No Sesame, All Street’ tagline (I’m also told Sesame Workshop aren’t thrilled about that), but one of the first things I said when I saw it was ‘Don’t crap on Jim’s legacy for the sake of a cheap joke’. So, as with my earlier concern, I put it to my puppeteer pal who worked on it, asking if the film made continous jokes and references, which was something I didn’t love the idea of. Thankfully, his answer eased my concerns.
Do they reference the shows and characters by name? No, they do not. In fact, someone had a Kermit poster hanging in the background at one scene and it had to be taken down because Brian wanted to make the distinction.
So, the two biggest sticking points in this trailer according to the comment boards was ‘Is it always this crude?’ and ‘Is this going to make cheap jokes about the established characters?’, and it seems that the answer is thankfully, no. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some more concerns, especially regarding the marketing of this film. So, indulge me for a moment, and let me talk directly to the marketing team.
Hi, marketing team for Happytime Murders. It looks like you have a fun little movie on your hands #WockaWocka. Here’s the thing though: I get that it’s easy to go for the Muppet/Sesame connection jokes, but I’m a hardcore fan and can tell the difference. There are already people online wondering why Kermit wasn’t in the trailer, or claiming they saw Oscar in the background of the snorting sequence. People who don’t follow along like we do, they don’t realize this isn’t a Muppet movie, nor that those characters aren’t even Muppets. So rather than lean in on that, maybe let this movie stand for itself. Show us some of the sweeter moments in the trailers, rather than packing it full of the silly string gag.
(PS – Hey other media outlets – STOP CALLING THIS A MUPPET MOVIE! You’re confusing everyone)