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The Happytime Murders


Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy star in a scene from the movie "The Happytime Murders." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/STX Entertainment)

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- Occasionally, as in "The Happytime Murders" (STX), filmmakers become enamored of the idea of foul-mouthed, sexualized puppets, as if no one had considered this idea before and there were some fresh, original way of going at this.

There's not.

Always, the comedy -- most recently, "Ted" and "Ted 2" come to mind -- depends on the shock value of contrasting colorful and benign fuzzy exteriors with crass behavior involving all manner of bodily functions. Just as dependably, this concept quickly dissipates, after which the proceedings degenerate into unendurable smut. Which is what we have here.

Director Brian Henson (son of Muppets creator Jim Henson, falling far from the tree) and screenwriter Todd Berger have borrowed elements from the Toontown of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and some of the explicit sight gags in Adam Sandler's body of work for a Los Angeles-set murder mystery.

The plot concerns the former puppets of a hit 1990s TV show, "The Happytime Gang," all of them leading desperate lives involving sex, pornography and drugs while waiting for the promised royalties from a syndication deal. Someone starts killing them off, presumably to increase his or her share of the residuals.

Puppets co-exist with humans, whom they call "Fleshies." But they face all manner of discrimination and have virtually no legal rights.

Detective Phil Philips (voice of Bill Barretta), a disgraced former police officer, is one such figure. He's quickly pulled into the slayings, which he investigates with the help of his human former partner, Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), while also dealing with what he thinks is a blackmail plot involving the hugely sexual Sandra White (voice of Dorien Davies).

The puppets, befitting their stature as avatars of sweetness and light, have an exceptionally high tolerance for sugar, which they sometimes inhale as if it's cocaine. And even in their most serious moments, they're prone to sight gags, many of them distasteful.

Puppetry has been a versatile enough medium to limn adult themes for centuries. Here, though, it's just an excuse for a series of dirty jokes, best left unwatched.

The film contains vulgar sexual sequences and pervasive profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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CAPSULE REVIEW

"The Happytime Murders" (STX)

Pornographic felt appears to have been the concept behind this Los Angeles-set murder mystery in which down-on-their-luck puppets from a once-popular 1990s TV show interact with humans. A disgraced puppet police detective (voice of Bill Barretta) and his human former partner (Melissa McCarthy) try to solve a series of slayings victimizing the cast of the program. Director Brian Henson (son of Muppets creator Jim Henson) and screenwriter Todd Berger have borrowed elements from the Toontown of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and some of the crasser sight gags in Adam Sandler's body of work. The result is little more than a series of dirty jokes, best left unwatched. Vulgar sexual sequences, pervasive profane and crude language The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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CLASSIFICATION

"The Happytime Murders" (STX) -- Catholic News Service classification, O -- morally offensive. Motion Picture Association of America rating, R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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