THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS – Susan Granger

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This seedy, noir-drenched, serial-homicide case involves the puppet cast of a beloved ‘80s children’s TV show who are being murdered, one-by-one, prompting a disgraced LAPD detective-turned-private detective puppet to investigate. Phil Phillips (voiced by Muppet vet Bill Barretta) is hired by femme fatale Sandra White (Dorien Davies) to stop the killings, which he’s eager to do, since one of the stars was Phil’s brother Larry (Victor Yerrid) and the show’s only human actress, Jenny (Elizabeth Banks), was once Phil’s lover.

Complicating matters is Phil’s troubled relationship with his former LAPD partner, Det. Connie Edwards (Melissa MCarthy), who – after being seriously injured during the incident that destroyed Phil’s career – underwent emergency abdominal surgery in which she received a puppet liver. As a result, Connie has developed a serious sugar addiction, prompting her to gulp huge quantities of maple syrup.

The trademark lawsuit prompted by the film’s release is – by far – its most interesting aspect. The highly reputable Sesame Workshop sued STX Entertainment’s “deliberate effort to appropriate its SESAME STREET mark, and its trusted brand and goodwill, to promote their R-rated movie.”

While Sesame Street objected to STX’s bawdy use of explicit, profane, drug-using, misogynistic, violent, copulating, and even ejaculating puppets, along with the tagline ‘NO SESAME, ALL STREET,’ Judge Vernon Broderick turned down their plea, deciding that tagline distinguished this film from Sesame Street in “a humorous, pithy way.”

Written by Todd Berger and directed by Muppets creator Jim Henson’s son Brian Hanson, it’s simply not funny except, perhaps, when it focuses on comedienne Maya Rudolph, as Phil’s secretary who’s secretly in love with him.

Instead, the most interesting aspect is the lengthy, end-credit blooper reel showing how the green-clad puppeteers are digitally erased in order to seamlessly integrate puppets with humans – doing porn.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Happytime Murders” is a crude, trashy 3. Stale vulgarity.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.