Elizabeth Banks signs on to Happytime Murders, by Tyler Smith
Actress Elizabeth Banks has signed on to be a part of the 2018 comedy The Happytime Murders, joining Melissa McCarthy and Maya Rudolph. Building any film around these three actresses is always a step in the right direction – especially as I consider McCarthy to be the most forceful comic actor working today – but I was also struck by the premise of this film.
Taking place in a world where puppets and humans coexist, somebody is murdering the former cast of The Happytime Gang, a Sesame Street-like television show. McCarthy plays the human detective on the case, paired with Bill Barretta as Phil Phillips, her puppet partner. Banks will play a burlesque dancer.
That the film will be directed by Brian Henson, son of Jim Henson, is almost interesting enough to make me forget that this premise seems lifted directly from Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The fantastical intermingled with the real, the dour investigation, and even the connection to the dark side of show business (the murderer is killing off former cast members, after all); it not only feels derivative, but shamelessly so.
It makes me wonder if, when the film is released in 2018, critics and audiences will praise it for the innovation of crafting a world where humans and puppets don’t bat an eye at each other’s existence. While I do have faith in Brian Henson to create that world beautifully, there’s no denying the similarities between The Happytime Murders and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? But, hey, by the time the film is released, Roger Rabbit will be 30 years old; perhaps that’s long enough for people to forget (it certainly is for Hollywood).
I’m sure the film will be effective enough, with Melissa McCarthy in the lead and now solid comedic performers like Elizabeth Banks and Maya Rudolph attached, but it will be hard for me to see the film as anything more than an echo of former innovation and creativity.