Tag Archives: Melissa McCarthy

The Happytime Murders (2018, Brian Henson)

The Happytime Murders is exceptionally foul and exceptionally funny. It’s set in a world where animate puppets and humans co-exist, with the human bigotry eradicated because they’ve all decided to hate on the puppets instead. There’s no explanation of how the puppets came to be or when they came to be or whatnot; they just exist. In the past, before the humans started hating on them, the puppets were entertainers who loved to dance. Now they’re all hooked on sucrose, which gets them high. It’s such intense sucrose it’d kill a human to ingest it, which both is and isn’t important to the story.

The first act sort of sets up the world—the lead, a disgraced ex-cop puppet private investigator (performed by a fantastic Bill Barretta), narrates. He’s in the City of Angels, he works out of a crappy office, he’s got a loyal human girl Friday for a secretary (Maya Rudolph, who’s also really good), and he’s trying to make things right for the downtrodden puppets. The movie opens with him getting a case from a fetching nymphomaniac puppet (Dorien Davies); it initially seems like a somewhat crude riff on a film noir, down to Barretta’s office looking like Sam Spade’s.

However, once Barretta gets to the puppet porn store, it’s clear Happytime is going a very, very, very different route. In fact, Barretta’s going to end up forgetting about client Davies because he gets wrapped up in a spree killing case where someone is targeting the puppets who used to be on a popular primetime sitcom, “The Happytime Gang.” Barretta’s involvement starts wrong place, wrong time, but then his old boss (a likable but dreadfully miscast Leslie David Baker) forces Barretta to work the case—as a consultant—with his old partner, human Melissa McCarthy.

Barretta and McCarthy used to be the best of partners, then there was a shooting gone wrong and McCarthy had Barretta not just drummed off the force but also got a law passed puppets can’t be cops. It’s unclear if the no puppet cops thing is nationwide or just L.A. The movie gives up on relevant exposition once McCarthy shows up, which is kind of fine. Todd Berger’s script has constantly hilarious moments but it’s not a good script, it just knows expertly executed puppets (by the post-Muppet Henson company no less) being inordinately obscene is going to be funny. Any deeper and Berger wouldn’t be able to handle it.

So it’s up to Barretta and McCarthy to get over their past history and solve the case. Or just survive the case, as they don’t just have to the bad guy to ferret out, they’ve also got to contend with jackass human FBI agent Joel McHale sticking his nose in. Oh, and Barretta’s ex-girlfriend, human Elizabeth Banks; he didn’t leave things quite right with her.

Mostly the movie is McCarthy mugging through scenes with puppets, aptly delivering filthy dialogue, with some nods at legitimate character development for Barretta as he reclaims his previous potential. While also delivering filthy dialogue.

It’s hilarious. McCarthy’s really good with the puppets. So good it doesn’t even matter she’s a barely shaded caricature who gets less personality in the script than Rudolph. More than Banks though, who initially seems like stunt casting, then not, then stunt casting again. Meanwhile McHale is… in a miscasting boat similar to Baker’s, but with less likability.

As far as Henson’s direction goes… well, the puppet work is outstanding. He does a great job directing the puppets. Otherwise, it’s a fairly bland effort on his part. Every shot seems constructed to be as simple as possible, which might be requisite given the puppets—the end credits show just how much work went into the production—but it’s nowhere near as enthusiastic as the movie needs. Maybe if Henson hadn’t shot it wide Panavision aspect ratio without any idea how to fill the frame; though Mitchell Amundsen’s similarly bland photography doesn’t help things. The puppetry is no doubt inventive, imaginative; the direction is neither.

The Happytime Murders isn’t a very good movie, but it’s still a somewhat awesome one. Barretta, McCarthy, and—to a smaller, but significant degree—Rudolph, make it happen.

It’s so exceptionally foul-minded, it has to be seen to be believed.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Brian Henson; screenplay by Todd Berger, based on a story by Berger and Dee Austin Robertson; director of photography, Mitchell Amundsen; edited by Brian Scott Olds; music by Christopher Lennertz; production designer, Chris L. Spellman; costume designer, Arjun Bhasin; produced by Ben Falcone, Jeffrey Hayes, Henson, and Melissa McCarthy; released by STX Entertainment.

Starring Bill Barretta (Phil Philips), Melissa McCarthy (Detective Connie Edwards), Maya Rudolph (Bubbles), Leslie David Baker (Lt. Banning), Dorien Davies (Sandra), Joel McHale (Agent Campbell), Victor Yerrid (Larry), Kevin Clash (Lyle), Drew Massey (Goofer), and Elizabeth Banks (Jenny).


The Heat (2013, Paul Feig), the unrated cut

I’m trying to imagine The Heat without Melissa McCarthy. Even though she gets second billing–the film opens introducing Sandra Bullock’s character, a superior FBI agent with no personal skills (and an odd klutziness the film never actually deals with)–McCarthy’s the only reason to watch the film and she’s the only consistently good thing in it.

Bullock ends up okay. She’s got a character arc, McCarthy doesn’t. But Bullock basically just stops being annoying and then she’s better. Inexplicably, for the postscripts, the film returns her more to the annoying side, which sort of closes things poorly.

Except McCarthy’s there to save it.

There’s a plot involving a mystery drug dealer and the most unlikely FBI operation on film, then some stuff with McCarthy’s ex-con brother (a downtrodden Michael Rapaport). Mostly it’s about McCarthy being funny, being obscene, making fun of Bullock in funny, obscene ways. Then, once they bond, it’s about them making fun of other people. There’s not much of an actual plot. There’s a really odd part where there’s a useless phone bugging.

The humor’s constant and Feig does a fine job directing the large cast. There’s a lot of thankless appearances. Between the more recognizable supporting cast members–Marlon Wayans, Jane Curtin, Thomas F. Wilson–only Wilson gets a good laugh. Curtin should, but she’s too underutilized. Her casting seems like an afterthought. Wayans, who’s good, has nothing to do.

It’s a fine time and an excellent vehicle for McCarthy. The rest doesn’t matter.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Paul Feig; written by Katie Dippold; director of photography, Robert D. Yeoman; edited by Jay Deuby and Brent White; music by Michael Andrews; production designer, Jefferson Sage; produced by Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Sandra Bullock (Ashburn), Melissa McCarthy (Mullins), Demian Bichir (Hale), Marlon Wayans (Levy), Michael Rapaport (Jason Mullins), Jane Curtin (Mrs. Mullins), Spoken Reasons (Rojas), Dan Bakkedahl (Craig), Taran Killam (Adam), Michael McDonald (Julian) and Thomas F. Wilson (Captain Woods).


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Bridesmaids (2011, Paul Feig), the unrated version

Whatever its faults, Bridesmaids‘s filmmakers get credit for making Maya Rudolph’s parents black and white, instead of ignoring her racial background like many other films would. Sadly, being better in that regard does not make up for Rudolph’s performance being the film’s worst or her character being dreadfully underwritten.

Writers Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, for the wedding and lead in to the wedding, borrow from a lot of popular movies (some even from producer Judd Apatow’s oeuvre). It’s sometimes successful, but in the end, it’s trite.

Luckily, Wiig did not just cowrite Bridesmaids, she starred in it. Her performance is fantastic, as is her story arc. Removing the wedding stuff with Rudolph might get rid of Bridesmaids‘s MacGuffin, but it would have produced a far better film.

Bridesmaids suffers from too much funny business. The filmmakers eject multiple subplots to concentrate on Wiig and her problems. There’s her romance with genial cop Chris O’Dowd, her sex-only relationship with an uncredited Jon Hamm (who’s hilarious) and her life just generally being in a bad place.

From the start, Mumolo and Wiig never ground Bridesmaids in a believable reality. They seem to think setting it in Milwaukee will do the trick alone–and it does some of the heavy lifting–but Wiig’s life is cartoonish. Unfortunately, the script often relies on being absurd instead of sincere.

Great supporting turns from Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy help, especially during weaker sequences.

Feig’s direction is affably indistinct.

Wiig’s performance is, again, fantastic.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Paul Feig; written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo; director of photography, Robert D. Yeomen; edited by William Kerr and Michael L. Sale; music by Michael Andrews; production designer, Jefferson Sage; produced by Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel and Clayton Townsend; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Kristen Wiig (Annie Walker), Maya Rudolph (Lillian Donovan), Rose Byrne (Helen Harris III), Melissa McCarthy (Megan), Wendi McLendon-Covey (Rita), Ellie Kemper (Becca), Chris O’Dowd (Officer Nathan Rhodes), Jill Clayburgh (Ms. Walker), Franklyn Ajaye (Mr. Donovan), Jon Hamm (Ted), Matt Lucas (Gil) and Rebel Wilson (Brynn).


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