The Happytime Murders is a 2018 American black comedy crime film directed by Brian Henson and written by Todd Berger. The film stars Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, Elizabeth Banks, and Bill Barretta. The plot, set in a world where puppets and humans co-exist, follows a joint police force who must solve a recent murder spree of retired sitcom stars.
The film was first announced in 2008 by The Jim Henson Company, the production studio of Muppets creator Jim Henson. Various actors, including Cameron Diaz, Katherine Heigl, and Jamie Foxx, were approached to star before McCarthy signed on in May 2017. Filming began in Los Angeles that September, and involved the use of over 120 puppets. The release marks the film debut of Henson Alternative, a banner of The Jim Henson Company that specializes in adult content.
The Happytime Murders was released on August 24, 2018, by STXfilms. It received generally negative reviews from critics and has grossed $27.5 million worldwide.
In a world where puppets coexist with humans but are treated as second-class citizens, Phil Phillips was the first puppet cop on the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) before being fired. Now a private detective with a human secretary Bubbles, he is hired by puppet client Sandra to find out who has been blackmailing her. Phil investigates a lead at a puppet-owned porn shop and while he goes in the back to check their records an attacker kills everyone present, including Bumblypants, a cast member of “The Happytime Gang”, a puppet sitcom that was due to go into syndication.
The LAPD arrive and Phil meets up with his former partner, Detective Connie Edwards. Twelve years prior, Edwards was being held at gunpoint by a puppet criminal. Phil tried to shoot him but missed and hit an innocent puppet, killing him in front of the puppet’s young daughter. Edwards and the thug exchanged fire; Edwards was wounded but the thug was killed. Edwards received a puppet liver transplant which left her with an addiction to sugar which is like heroin to puppets. Edwards testified against Phil and a law was enacted preventing puppets from being cops.
Back in the present, Edwards believes it was a robbery gone wrong but Phil believes it was murder. That night Phil’s brother Larry “Shenanigans” Phillips, former Happytime cast-member, is torn apart when someone lets dogs into his house. Phil reluctantly teams up with Edwards to find the killer.
The two track down former Happytime cast member Lyle only for him to be killed in a drive-by shooting in front of Phil. Phil goes to see Jenny, the only human Happytime cast member and his former girlfriend, at a puppet strip club where she works. Phil is unable to protect her when her car explodes apparently killing her. The police see Phil leaving the scene and believe him to be responsible for the murders.
Phil hides out at Edwards’ apartment and they discover that homeless sugar addict and former Happytime member Goofer has apparently overdosed and drowned. They go the house of the two remaining Happytime Gang members Ezra and Cara only to find their mangled bodies. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shows up and Phil and Edwards are detained.
Phil is shown Sandra in an interrogation room. She reveals that she and Jenny are married and claims Phil killed Jenny and the others, to keep Sandra for himself.
Edwards is suspended from duty, and finds Bubbles to ask for help proving Phil’s innocence. They break into Sandra’s place and come across a hidden room with plans for the deaths of the Happytime Gang and a conspiracy against Phil. Edwards notices a picture of the puppet who Phil accidentally shot years ago and realizes that Sandra is his daughter, and that she is out for revenge against Phil. Bubbles sees a tape recorder and presses the play button, which ignites a fire destroying all the evidence. Edwards breaks Phil out of jail to stop Sandra.
Phil and Edwards get to the airport where Sandra is planning to escape with all the royalty money. Phil apologizes for killing her father, saying it has haunted him all the years since, and asks why the Happytime Gang had to die. Sandra says she wanted Phil to suffer as payback. It turns out that Jenny is alive, having faked her death, and is in cahoots with Sandra, but Sandra knocks Jenny out to take the money for herself after Philips reveals her true history. Sandra holds Edwards at gunpoint, putting her and Phil in the same position as twelve years before. Phil takes his shot and doesn’t miss this time, killing Sandra.
Banning arrives to congratulate Phil and Edwards on cracking the case. He restores Edwards to active duty and convinces the mayor to lift the ban on puppet cops, welcoming Phil back on the force. Phil asks Bubbles out on a date, and she accepts.
Human characters Melissa McCarthy as Detective Connie Edwards, Phil’s ex-partner.
Maya Rudolph as Bubbles, Phil’s secretary.
Joel McHale as Special Agent Campbell, an FBI agent.
Elizabeth Banks as Jenny Peterson, a burlesque dancer and Phil’s ex-girlfriend, the sole human member of The Happytime Gang.
Leslie David Baker as Lt. Banning, Edwards’ police superior.
Michael McDonald as Ronovan Scargle, the CEO of the Television Network which produced The Happytime Gang.
Cynthy Wu as Brittenie Marlowe, Larry Phillips’ girlfriend.
Mitch Silpa as Tommy, a criminal who sells puppet parts on the black market.
Hemky Madera as Tito, a criminal who purchases puppet parts on the black market.
Jimmy O. Yang as Officer Delancey, a police officer.
Ryan Gaul as Officer Milligan, a police officer.
Fortune Feimster as Robin, a weed dealer and fan of The Happytime Gang.
Ben Falcone as Donny, an LAPD desk worker.