When you think of film being rated R, it usually doesn’t involve puppets unless you’re into that kind of thing (no judgement). However, when it comes to the upcoming Henson Alternative The Happytime Murders, an R-rating is not only expected, but absolutely necessary.

The Happytime Murders, which has been in development and production hell since 2008, finally got its R-rating this week as well as some outrageous and overly positive feedback on the red band trailer that premiered during the Las Vegas CinemaCon. The trailer was introduced by STX Films chairman Adam Fogelson and promptly described by audience as filthy, graphic and full of Sex. Lots and lots of sex.



You know the film is the real deal because it’s being directed by Brian Henson, son of Jim and Jane, a skilled puppeteer, technician, producer, and chairman of The Jim Henson Company.  The Happytime Murders is being produced under Henson Alternative, a branch of the company responsible for more adult content such as Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.


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The Happytime Murders centers around a puppet private eye, Phil Phillips (played by Bill Barretta, who has worked on almost every Muppet movie ever). His character is a hardened pariah ex-cop, hot on the trail of a serial killer that he believes murdered his brother and now targets stars of an 80’s television series, The Happytime Gang. He’ll have to team up with a human partner played by the hysterical Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, Spy) in order to catch the murderer before its too late. Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids, Grownups), Joel McHale (Community, Santa Clarita Diet), Leslie David Baker (The Office, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie), and Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect) will also star alongside a variety of velvety cast mates pulling together the ultimate dirty comedic ensemble. Think Who Framed Roger Rabbit? meets Team America: World Police, with a splash of Scorcese. It’s the perfect entertainment cocktail.

The question must be asked: Is it wrong to get excited about seeing a character resembling Fozzie Bear stabbing someone in the stomach, or to see a character like Miss Piggy getting boned? Probably, But we’re horror fans and that means anything goes, even the medium by which we receive our violence.


happytime murder


If I may say, this is a brilliant, if anything, respectfully brave endeavor concerning everyone involved. It could not have been easy to pitch this idea to anyone in the film industry back around 2008. However, the genre we stand by so fiercely is one of the single categories of film that is arguably constantly changing and evolving with the time. This combination of actors, puppets, animatronics, and real visual effects to portray heavy noir and murderous material might sound silly at first, but it’s different and that is something we look for as film consumers. Most of the time we’re praying for it.

Whats interesting is that back in 2009, Lisa Henson (Brian’s sister) commented on expanding this human and puppet film universe further past The Happytime Murders to incorporate a variety of genres from comedy to full-on horror. With the recent successes of rated-R movies like Deadpool, Logan, and IT, an R-rating stamped on this “neo-noir-puppet-comedy-thriller” means it’s serious. The reaction to Muppet-like puppets having their brains shot out and dropping F-bombs in the red band trailer might mean that skeptics will have to put a sock in it until it’s released (get it?) and critics as well as audiences can decide if puppets might be here to stay. Guess we don’t have to worry about A.I.’s replacing humans. Actually, puppets might be scarier..PROOF

So, the MPAA rating is marked on The Happytime Murders, which heeds a great warning to parents: This is not The Great Muppet Caper. Should you make the mistake of allowing your child to see it, you’ll be having a very uncomfortable silly string analogy discussion with them.