Unfrosted

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Comedy;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some suggestive references and language.
Stars Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Gaffigan, Amy Schumer, Max Greenfield, Hugh Grant, Melissa McCarthy, Christian Slater, Cedric the Entertainer, Adrian Martinez, James Marsden, Maria Bakalova, Peter Dinklage, Thomas Lennon, Bobby Moynihan, Fred Armisen, Darrell Hammond.

Jerry Seinfeld fingered political correctness as the blame for the current deluge of comedians edging away from satirical edginess. When it came time for the corporate spokesperson for American comedy to do something to brighten the landscape by staging a mordant blitzkrieg of his own, he played patty cake when a melee was in order. I must confess to having never seen an episode of “Seinfeld.” It has nothing to do with the show or its star — Jerry Seinfeld’s appearances on Carson and Letterman were tight, easily relatable, and frequently hilarious sets of observational stand-up. The arrival of VCRs on the scene soon enabled anyone with a video store membership and/or cable box to become their own programmers, forever relegating network television to the dustbin of antiquity. When a comedian directs, I’m there. Unfrosted is his first shot behind-the-camera on a feature-length narrative. As a director, Jerry Seinfeld is an exceptional stand-up.

To say the film is loosely based on the war between American cereal conglomerates (and Michigan neighbors) Post (Amy Schumer) and Kellogg’s (Jim Gaffigan) to come up with a fruit-filled, toaster-ready breakfast cake is putting it mildly. Anyone familiar with the TV version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas can close their eyes and hear the voice of the cartoon’s star, Thurl Ravenscroft, playing in their head. He also provided the voice for venerable cartoon cereal big-cat, Tony the Tiger. Ravenscroft no sooner conceived of Tony’s “They’re Gr-r-reat!” catchphrase than he did cream depilatory. The slogan had been in place before Thurl’s trilled “r’s’” thrilled their way through a 50-year run as Kellogg’s sepulchral-throated breakfast food mascot. A Life Magazine ad features none other than Groucho Marx being upstaged by the Sugar Frosted Flakes pitchman’s tagline, “You bet your life they’re Gr-r-reat!” All of this took place almost a decade before the narrative kicks off in 1963. 

But wait. There’s more! The attention to period detail is abysmal. The Oscar Mayer hot dogs packaging on display bore little resemblance to their 1963 predecessors. Ditto the whoopie cushions — What? No “Poo! Poo!” — that appear to have been plucked off a Party City pegboard by a plucky production assistant. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Wooly Bully” are both featured prominently on the soundtrack even though neither song existed in 1963. A reference to Ravenscroft’s (Hugh Grant) “Burger King crown” is a cute but factually bankrupt notion, seeing how the first BK franchise didn’t open until 1963. If one is paying more attention to anachronisms, whizzing past like a picket fence in a hurtling roadster, than they are storytelling, the filmmakers aren’t doing their job.

Seinfeld told Entertainment Weekly his aim was to make the anti-Barbie. The Mattel-a-thon was the biggest moneymaker in Warner Bros. history while the box office cereal killer Seinfeld envisioned never materialized. (In that sense, he met his goal.) Rather than setting his sights high on the smash hit of all time, Seinfeld would have been better served by taking a nod from John Lee Hancock’s Ray Kroc biopic The Founder, a film so meticulously plotted and researched, one could learn how to build a fast food empire strictly by paying attention.

The list of cameo appearances — Thomas Lennon, Bobby Moynihan, Fred Armisen, Darrell Hammond — read like SNL opening credits. Also joining the fun with very little to do are Max Greenfield, Hugh Grant, Melissa McCarthy, Christian Slater, Cedric the Entertainer, Adrian Martinez, James Marsden, Maria Bakalova, and Peter Dinklage. A Godfather-esque meeting of the five cereal families — Kellogg’s, Post, Quaker, Ralston Purina and General Mills — that must have sounded so funny on paper, never stood a chance under Seinfeld’s freshman lens. In the least, Barbie had a consistent visual style, limited though it might be, and a corporate history to fall back on. Unfrosted’s eagerness to play fast and loose with the truth is the film’s biggest drawback. I spent the better portion of three hours reading up on Kellogg’s and 90% of what passed my eyes bore greater comedic interest than any of the word association nostalgia soup Seinfeld and his trio of writers serve up. Seinfeld even has the gall to rip off Albert Brooks’ oracular lip-moving ventriloquist routine right down to naming the dummy Danny.

Perhaps the subject would have been best suited to animation. The only reason Battle Creek Michigan sticks out in my brain is through the Hanna-Barbera cartoons that date back as far as my memory. Kellogg’s sponsored cartoon superstars Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw and Snagglepuss, while Post represented Ruff and Ready, the Flintstones (Fred, Wilma, Pebbles and Dino) and the Rubbles (Betty, Barney and Bamm-Bamm). Imagine a “Roger Rabbit” frame up between the two factions of H/B heavyweights that results in an animation studio civil war. Anything would have been funnier than the cow farts and a stock Nazi buffoon that’s enough to place even the most woke audience in a somnambulistic coma.

 

Peacock Bowing Original Melissa McCarthy Comedy ‘Genie’ on Nov. 22

The NBCUniversal streaming service Peacock is set to launch the original Christmas comedy Genie on Nov. 22. From Universal Pictures and Working Title, the movie stars Melissa McCarthy as the genie Flora trapped for more than 2,000 years inside an antique jewelry box because of a misunderstanding with a sorcerer back in 77 B.C.

After millennia of being summoned to grant wishes of gold doubloons and hot babes for greedy men, Flora is accidentally called to service by Bernard Bottle (Emmy nominee Paapa Kwakye Essiedu, I May Destroy You), whose life is unraveling around him.

Alone in his New York City apartment, a despondent Bernard dusts off a jewelry box he finds in their home and unintentionally releases Flora, who just might be able to help him get his family back.

Genie is directed by Sam Boyd (In A Relationship, creator of the acclaimed series “Love Life”) and written by Richard Curtis, based on his 1991 teleplay Bernard and the Genie. The supporting cast includes Screen Actors Guild nominee Marc Maron (“GLOW”), Screen Actors Guild winner Luis Guzmán (Hightown), Tate Ellington (The Brave) and Tony winner LaChanze (Broadway’s The Color Purple).

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The Little Mermaid (2023)

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 9/19/23;
Disney;
Musical;
Box Office $298.17 million;
$29.99 DVD, $36.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD (Exclusive to Best Buy, Walmart and Disney Movie Club);
Rated ‘PG’ for action/peril and some scary images.
Stars Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy, Javier Bardem, Noma Dumezweni, Art Malik, Jessica Alexander, Daveed Diggs, Jacob Tremblay, Awkwafina.

Disney’s bland live-action remake of The Little Mermaid might not supplant the original animated classic in the hearts of fans, but it does make for a nice companion piece. At the very least, like most of Disney’s live-action remakes, it should keep entertained the new generation of viewers unfamiliar with the source material.

The story, based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, doesn’t stray much from Disney’s 1989 animated version, other than to fill in a few details. The mermaid Ariel (Halle Bailey) becomes fascinated by human culture and dreams of exploring the surface world, though is warned against doing so by her father, King Triton (Javier Bardem). Witnessing a shipwreck during a violent storm, Ariel saves Eric (Jonah Hauer-King), prince of an unnamed island kingdom, and becomes enamored with him. After being admonished by her father, Ariel is approached by the sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) who offers her a deal — three days with legs instead of a tail, and a chance to win the heart of the prince. Earning true love’s kiss will make her permanently human, but if she fails, she reverts to her mermaid form and will be enslaved by Ursula (who simply wants to use Ariel as a bargaining chip to extort the throne from Triton). And she will have to do it without her famous singing voice, as Ursula has seized it as the price for her spell.

As an added twist, in this version Ursula’s spell makes Ariel forget the terms of their deal, leaving it up to Ariel’s undersea pals Sebastian the crab, Flounder the fish, and Scuttle the bird, to arrange for the kiss.

The film also adds more dimension to Eric’s character, who is fascinated by stories of sea creatures and their culture, and he even gets his own “I want” song, “Wild Unchartered Waters,” to really hammer home that he’s the human male version of Ariel.

Most of the original songs carry over, though the ditty from the chef trying to make a meal of Sebastian has been omitted. The few new songs from original composer Alan Menken, joined by new lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, don’t mesh very well stylistically with the legacy material, particularly the ill-advised “Scuttlebutt” semi-rap number.

As to the primary motivation for this remake to exist, the “live-action” of it all, the visual effects aren’t very convincing in that regard. The underwater sequences look like a cross between Finding Nemo and Aquaman — bright, vivid environments with greenscreened humans superimposed onto them — which just speaks to why it was animated in the first place. It doesn’t help that Ariel’s animal pals also have to speak, which lends to an uncanny valley effect involving them, particularly Sebastian.

Thankfully, the live-action version doesn’t restore the fairy tale’s original ending, in which the mermaid utterly fails in her quest for love and dissolves into sea foam, ultimately becoming an ethereal spirit.

The home video editions of The Little Mermaid include both the theatrical cut and a sing-along version with on-screen lyrics. To that end, there’s also a “Song Selection” option that lets viewers watch just the musical scenes.

The 22-minute “Song Breakdowns” featurettes delves into the making of the film’s four key musical sequences. The general making of the film is covered in the 26-minute “Hotter Under the Water” featurette, while the seven-minute “The Scuttlebutt on Sidekicks” focuses on the portrayal of the side characters. The four-minute “Passing the Dinglehopper” deals with the cameo of Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in the original movie.

Rounding out the extras is a two-minute blooper reel.

Note that as far as physical media is concerned, only the Blu-ray and DVD will be made widely available at retail. The 4K editions are exclusive to Best Buy (which offers a Steelbook combo pack), Walmart (which includes an enamel pin), and the Disney Movie Club (which offers standard packaging). For review the Steelbook edition was provided.

 

TV Time: Warner’s ‘Mortal Kombat’ Most Anticipated Movie in April

Warner Bros.’ Mortal Kombat was the most anticipated movie in April on the TV Time chart.

Based on the video game franchise of the same name, the film follows Shaolin Monk Liu Kang, from Earth, who gets invited as a competitor in a mysterious, intergalactic tournament of ancient martial arts. It premieres April 23 in theaters and on WarnerMedia’s HBO Max streaming service.

A Whip Media company, TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by nearly 1 million consumers every day, according to the company. TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” is based on data from those users.

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, premiering on Amazon Prime April 30, took the second spot on the chart. The action thriller is based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Tom Clancy and is a spin-off of the Jack Ryan film series.

Coming in at No. 3 was Netflix’s Thunder Force, premiering April 9 on the streaming service. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spenser and Jason Bateman, the film follows two childhood best friends who reunite as an unlikely crime-fighting superhero duo when one invents a formula that gives ordinary people superpowers.

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Also from Netflix, Stowaway, premiering April 22, took the fourth spot on the chart. In the film starring Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson and Toni Collette, a three-person crew on a mission to Mars faces an impossible choice when an unplanned passenger jeopardizes the lives of everyone on board.

Another space story, Lionsgate’s Voyagers, landed at No. 5. Starring Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp and Fionn Whitehead, the film follows a crew of astronauts on a multi-generational mission who descend into paranoia and madness, not knowing what is real or not. It hits theaters April 9.

Rounding out the chart at No. 6 was Concrete Cowboy, which began streaming on Netflix April 2. Starring Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin (“Stranger Things”), it follows a rebellious teen, sent to live with his estranged father for the summer, who finds kinship in a tight-knit Philadelphia community of Black cowboys.

 Most Anticipated April Movies

  1. Mortal Kombat – April 23 (Warner Bros., theaters and HBO Max)
  2. Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse – April 30 (Amazon Prime)
  3. Thunder Force – April 9 (Netflix)
  4. Stowaway – April 22 (Netflix)
  5. Voyagers – April 9 (Lionsgate, theaters)
  6. Concrete Cowboy – April 2 (Netflix)

 

TV Time features a global community of 16 million users who have reported more than 18 billion views of TV and movie content across 230,000 titles.

HBO Max Launches ‘Superintelligence’ Charity Campaign

HBO Max has kicked off a “20 Days of Kindness” campaign on behalf of its new film Superintelligence, launching Nov. 26 on the service from New Line Cinema.

Star Melissa McCarthy and director Ben Falcone announced the campaign Nov. 10 during their appearance on “The Today Show” while launching the first trailer for the movie. With a “20 for 20 in 20” initiative, HBO Max will highlight and donate $20,000 to a different good cause daily for 20 days while encouraging others to lend their support. In addition, AT&T helped kick off the campaign with a $1 million contribution to Girls Who Code, an international non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in technology and change the image of what a programmer looks like and does.

On Nov. 13, World Kindness Day, the campaign will celebrate acts of kindness shared across social media. Content can include a post, tagging someone with a kind word, or showing a short video of a random act of kindness.  Talent and influencers will help launch the program, encouraging others to participate using the hashtag #20DaysOfKindness.

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Consumers can go to https://20daysofkindness.com for more information and to follow the different charities daily. As part of the #20DaysofKindness campaign, McCarthy, Falcone and HBO Max are also launching a Prizeo charity sweepstakes, giving away a Tesla, a hangout with McCarthy and Falcone, and chances to attend the premiere with all funds raised benefitting Conservation International, World Central Kitchen, and Make-A-Wish. For more information visit prizeo.com/superintelligence.

In the film, when an all-powerful Superintelligence (James Corden) chooses to study the most average person on Earth, Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy), the fate of the world hangs in the balance. As the A.I. decides to enslave, save or destroy humanity, it’s up to Carol to prove that people are worth saving.

Netflix Gets Rights to Films Starring Melissa McCarthy, Millie Bobby Brown, Makes Deal in France for French Classics

Netflix has acquired rights to films starring Melissa McCarthy and Millie Bobby Brown, and will distribute French classics in France through a deal with MK2.

Netflix has acquired global rights, excluding China, to Enola Holmes, starring Millie Bobby Brown, from Legendary Entertainment. The film is based on Nancy Springer’s Edgar Award-nominated book series, “The Enola Holmes Mysteries.” The film tells the story of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes’ rebellious teen sister Enola, a gifted super-sleuth in her own right who often outsmarts her brilliant siblings. In addition to Brown (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Stranger Things), the film stars Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games films, Me Before You), Adeel Akhtar (The Big Sick, Les Miserables), Fiona Shaw (Killing Eve, Harry Potter films), Frances de la Tour (Into the Woods, Harry Potter films), Louis Partridge (Medici), Burn Gorman (Pacific Rim), Susan Wokoma(Crazyhead, Year of the Rabbit), Henry Cavill (Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Man of Steel, The Witcher), and Helena Bonham Carter (“The Crown,” The King’s Speech, The Wings of the Dove, Harry Potter films).

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Netflix has also acquired global rights to the Melissa McCarthy film The Starling from Limelight, Entertainment One (eOne) and Boies Schiller Entertainment. In the dramady, after a married couple suffers a hardship, Jack heads off to deal with grief while Lilly remains in the “real” world, dealing with her own guilt and a crippling internal struggle to live with a dark secret. As if Lilly’s troubles weren’t bad enough, a starling bird that has nested in her backyard begins to harass and attack her. This starling comes to represent all of Lilly’s problems, and she becomes comically obsessed with killing it. In addition to McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?, St. Vincent, Spy, Bridesmaids), the film also stars Chris O’Dowd (State of the UnionBridesmaids, The Sapphires) Kevin Kline (Dave, Beauty and the Beast, A Fish Called Wanda, Wild Wild West, In & Out), Timothy Olyphant(Justified, Go, A Perfect Getaway), Daveed Diggs(Blindspotting, Wonder, Hamilton), Skyler Gisondo (Booksmart, Vacation, Night at the Museum: Secrets of the Tomb), Loretta Devine (Grey’s Anatomy, Family Reunion, Crash), Laura Harrier(BlackKklansman, Spiderman: Homecoming, Hollywood), Rosalind Chao (Just Like Heaven, Freaky Friday, The Joy Luck Club) and Kimberly Quinn (Hidden Figures, El Camino Christmas, St. Vincent).

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Finally, Netflix and MK2 have announced a partnership on a selection of classic films from the MK2 catalogue. Throughout 2020, masterpieces of French and international cinema will be offered on Netflix, in France, with films by directors such as François Truffaut, Charlie Chaplin and Jacques Demy. The partnership covers a catalog of 50 films directed by François Truffaut, Charlie Chaplin, Alain Resnais, David Lynch, Emir Kusturica, Jacques Demy, Michael Haneke, Xavier Dolan, Steve McQueen and Krzysztof Kieslowski.

“We are very pleased that Netflix is strengthening its position in heritage cinema and major international authors with this agreement,” MK2’s Nathanaël Karmitz said in a statement. “MK2’s role, through its catalog of more than 800 titles representing part of the world history of cinema, is to contribute to the transmission of this universal cinema heritage and to make these films accessible to the greatest number of people, including the youngest. This broadcasting agreement is good news for all French people who love cinema and its history.”

“We are delighted to offer our members a selection of masterpieces from the MK2 catalog,” said Sara May, director of acquisitions and co-productions for France and Italy at Netflix. “These heritage films are universal in scope and will always remain a source of inspiration for both our members and the writers and directors with whom we collaborate today.”

The works will be available on Netflix throughout the year. The François Truffaut collection opens the series, with a dozen films made by the French New Wave director available April 24, including Bed and Board, Fahrenheit 451, Confidentially Yours, Jules and Jim, Love on the Run, Shoot the Piano Player, Stolen Kisses, The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, The Soft Skin, The Woman Next Door and Two English Girls.

Mob Drama ‘The Kitchen’ Due on Digital Oct. 22, Disc Nov. 5 From Warner

The female-driven mob drama The Kitchen arrives on digital (including Movies Anywhere) Oct. 22 and Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 5 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Based on the Vertigo comic book series from DC Entertainment, the film stars Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, Tammy), Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip, Night School) and Elisabeth Moss (TV’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” TV’s “Mad Men”) as three 1978 Hell’s Kitchen housewives whose mobster husbands are sent to prison by the FBI. The three women take business into their own hands by running the rackets and taking out the competition.

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The film, which earned $12.2 million in domestic theaters, is written and directed by Andrea Berloff, who was nominated for an Oscar for Original Screenplay for Straight Outta Compton.

Extras on Blu-ray include “Running Hell’s Kitchen,” “Taking Over the Neighborhood,” and a deleted scene. “Running Hell’s Kitchen” is included on the DVD.

Warner’s ‘A Star Is Born’ Shoots to No. 1 on Redbox Charts

It may have picked up just one Academy Award (Best Original Song) from its eight nominations, but A Star Is Born triumphed on both Redbox charts the week leading up to the Oscar ceremony Feb. 24.

Warner’s 2018 update of the classic film story landed at No. 1 on both the Redbox kiosk chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at the company’s more than 40,000 red vending machines, and the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks transactional video-on-demand (TVOD), both electronic sellthrough (EST) and streaming, the week ended Feb. 24.

The film, which earned $210.9 million at the box office and debuted on disc Feb. 19, stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga — both nominated for Oscars for their performances — as two musicians who come together on stage and in life in a complex journey through the beauty and heartbreak of a relationship struggling to survive.

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Four other new releases appeared on the Redbox disc chart for the week. Lionsgate’s Robin Hood, another retelling of a classic story, starring Taron Egerton as Robin Hood and Jamie Foxx as Little John, debuted at No. 2. Paramount Pictures’ Overlord, a story produced by J.J. Abrams about a team of American paratroopers who encounter Nazi super-soldiers, entered the chart at No. 4. Lionsgate’s Backtrace, an action thriller starring Sylvester Stallone, debuted at No. 8. And 20th Century Fox’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? — which earned three Oscar noms, for Best Actress (Melissa McCarthy), Best Supporting Actor (Richard E. Grant) and Best Adapted Screenplay — entered the disc chart at No. 10.

Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which won all but one of the five Oscars for which it was nominated, including Best Actor for Rami Malek, finished its second week in disc release at No. 3, falling from No. 1.

On the digital chart, Bohemian Rhapsody fell one spot to No. 2, behind A Star Is Born, which shot up the chart from No. 10 the previous week. Robin Hood took the third spot, followed by Paramount’s Tyler Perry comedy Nobody’s Fool at No. 4 (from No. 2 the previous week), Overlord at No. 5 and Can You Ever Forgive Me? at No. 6.

Interestingly, two titles released in the fall of last year appeared on the digital chart. Sony Pictures’ Nov. 13 release Searching, which stars John Cho as a distraught father who sifts through his missing daughter’s digital footprint determined to find her, appeared at No. 9. And Universal Pictures’ Sept. 25 release Skyscraper, an actioner starring Dwayne Johnson, came in at No. 10.

 

Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ended Feb. 24:

  1. A Star Is Born (2018) (New) — Warner
  2. Robin Hood (2018) (New) — Lionsgate
  3. Bohemian Rhapsody — Fox
  4. Overlord (New) — Paramount
  5. The Grinch — Universal
  6. Nobody’s Fool — Paramount
  7. Widows — Fox
  8. Backtrace (New) — Lionsgate
  9. The Girl in the Spider’s Web — Sony
  10. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (New) — Fox

 

Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ended Feb. 24:

  1. A Star Is Born (2018) — Warner
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody — Fox
  3. Robin Hood (2018) — Lionsgate
  4. Nobody’s Fool — Paramount
  5. Overlord — Paramount
  6. Can You Ever Forgive Me? — Fox
  7. The Grinch — Universal
  8. Widows — Fox
  9. Searching — Sony
  10. Skyscraper — Universal

Fox Releasing ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ on Home Video in February

The lauded drama Can You Ever Forgive Me? will be released digitally Feb. 5 and on DVD Feb. 19 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Melissa McCarthy earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination playing Lee Israel, a bestselling celebrity biographer in the 1970s and ’80s. When she realizes she’s no longer en vogue, she unleashes a web of lies, deceit and outright crime to get back on top.

Based on a true story, the film also earned Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor for Richard E. Grant, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Extras include audio commentary by director Marielle Heller and Melissa McCarthy; deleted scenes with optional commentary from Heller; the featurettes “Elevator Pitch,” “Becoming Lee Israel,” “Likely Friends” and “A Literary World”; a Lee Israel letter gallery; and unit photography gallery.

The Happytime Murders

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 12/4/18;
Universal;
Comedy;
Box Office $20.71 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong crude and sexual content and language throughout, and some drug material.
Stars Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, Leslie David Baker, Joel McHale, Michael McDonald.
Voices of Bill Barretta, Dorien Davies, Kevin Clash, Drew Massey.

The Happytime Murders continues the glorious tradition of using the tropes of children’s programming as the basis for subversive adult entertainment.

The film is set in a world best described as “Muppets-adjacent,” where felt-skinned puppets are alive and second-class citizens of a society in which humans are pretty openly racist toward them. Some of the puppets end up as performers in movies and TV shows for kids, and when they’re off camera they have to deal with the harsh realities of life like everyone else.

The story involves a puppet named Phil (Bill Barretta), an ex-cop now working as a private investigator. He gets roped into a case involving the former members of a TV show called “The Happytime Gang” getting killed one at a time, and the police ask him to help his former partner (Melissa McCarthy) figure out who’s behind it.

The Happytime Murders could be considered something of a puppet version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit if not for a couple of factors. First, all the puppet characters are generic and created just for this film. Seeing characters from other franchises interact could have helped build the world and establish a sense of nostalgia to better connect audiences to the story. To that end, it’s not surprising that other studios would be reluctant to lend their IP to the project, which owes a lot to the second factor — the film is completely filthy.

Puppets do drugs. Puppets engage in dangerous sex acts. Puppets get ripped apart by dogs and get their heads blown apart by shotguns, leaving fluffy cotton entrails everywhere. An then there’s the excessive use of silly string. It’s pretty much everything you suspected goes on in the after hours of “Sesame Street” but were afraid to ask.

In fact, the film was the basis of an unsuccessful lawsuit from the Sesame Workshop for its tagline of “No Sesame. All Street,” which is still boldly emblazoned on the DVD and Blu-ray box art. But the fact that the puppets are basically off-brand Muppets is no coincidence.

The film’s director is Brian Henson, son of the late Muppets creator Jim Henson. In a commentary on the Blu-ray, Brian helpfully points out that he made sure to include a “Henson Alternative” production banner at the beginning of The Happytime Murders to signal that this movie really isn’t for children. Not that the trailers or any of the marketing wouldn’t have given that away.

The notion of living puppets scheming to commit mayhem brings to mind the “Smile Time” episode from Joss Whedon’s vampire drama “Angel,” which featured several demonic puppets stealing the life force from children. Unsurprisingly, many of the episode’s puppets were realized with the help of a number of Jim Henson Co. puppeteers, including some who worked on this movie.

I also have a feeling that the foul-mouthed Stinky the Grump from the famous “Chappelle’s Show” “Kneehigh Park” sketch would be quite at home in the world of The Happytime Murders as well.

But this isn’t a five-minute sketch. Happytime Murders doubles down on the concept of puppets doing inappropriate things, to the point where it doesn’t seem to have much to say beyond that. Most scenes are structured on the idea of a puppet doing something crude and unexpected, allowing the movie to coast on the juxtaposition of something associated with children acting in an adult way. Which isn’t to say it isn’t entertaining. The film offers a number of clever observations about a hypothetical puppet society, and there are even moments that are laugh-out-loud hilarious. However, the constancy of it is just a bit draining, and the pace of the puppetry must have worn out the filmmakers too given how the story evolves into a lengthy stretch focusing on a couple of the human characters trying to solve the mystery on their own.

More impressive is the film’s visual style, and the extent of the visual effects work involved may surprise some viewers. According to some of the Blu-ray’s behind-the-scenes material, there were a fair amount of puppeteers crouched just off camera to animate the characters. But there is also a lot of CGI involved, too. The disc offers a two-minute featurette about how the filmmakers used virtual environments to gain better control over the action.

More illuminating is a nearly three-minute video about how the visual effects team created a lot of the “puppets” from CGI to begin with. Some might see it as cheating, I suppose, but their work in this regard is amazing, as the level of detail in the texture of the fabric seems completely authentic. At first blush I just assumed many of the scenes of puppets walking around in full view of the camera were done with little people in costumes, so it was a bit of an eye-opener to see how they really did it.

A fuller overview of the visual effects work is on display in a four-minute montage video that shows several scenes at different stages of development.

In addition to the aforementioned audio commentary, in which director Henson is joined by puppeteer/voice actor Barretta, the Blu-ray also includes a three-minute gag reel and a two-and-a-half-minute “Line-O-Rama” of alternate improvisations.

Finally, the disc includes more than 14 minutes of deleted scenes, which expand on a few points and fill in some character details that are touched on in the final film.

Regarding the film’s digital copy, take note that the film is not available for redemption through Movies Anywhere, even though Universal is a signatory studio. The production company is STX Films, which does not have a distribution deal with Movies Anywhere, and as a result the digital code included with the disc is redeemable only through iTunes.