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But How Gay is ‘The Happytime Murders’?

In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now — including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.

What is The Happytime Murders? Perhaps you know it best as “that foul Muppet movie I’ve seen a trailer for.” The Happytime Murders follows an ex-cop puppet, Phil Phillips, as he suddenly gets thrown back into detective work with his former human partner, Connie Edwards. Phillips’ brother, Larry, is killed, and several other former cast members of Larry’s previous TV series The Happytime Gang suffer the same untimely end. Phil has to determine the truth — or else be assumed as the culprit of the crimes himself.

There’s a whole lot of backstory about why Phil is no longer a cop, what went wrong with his relationship with Edwards, and how Edwards became partially a puppet (?!), but I’d hardly want to spoil your Happytime Murders experience.

Who’s in it? Longtime Muppets performer Bill Barretta voices Phil, and turns in what is probably the best performance in the film. Melissa McCarthy plays Edwards, and deserves some mix of sympathy for playing such a thankless role and criticism for taking on the role in the first place. She’s regularly mocked for her appearance (multiple characters mistake her for a man), and doesn’t get nearly the number of laugh lines she deserves. Same goes for Maya Rudolph as Phillips’ assistant, Bubbles, who nonetheless charms through sheer force of being Maya Rudolph. And Joel McHale and Elizabeth Banks are mostly wasted in thankless supporting roles.

Why should I see it? I … don’t know if you should? The Happytime Murders isn’t as bad as its Rotten Tomatoes score indicates, but it’s not that much better. I wouldn’t call it one of the worst movies of the year, as many have said, so much as I’d call it lazy. There are far better movies to see, is the bottom line.

But how gay is it? Okay, I cannot possibly argue for The Happytime Murders as particularly queer-inclusive or queer-friendly. But, for what it’s worth, two characters are presented as fluid in their sexuality, and no big deal is made of it. So there’s that!

Is the extended puppet orgasm scene in the film just as bad as the one in the trailer? Oh my god, so much worse. You’ll never look at silly string the same way again.

Do we as a society need to do better by Maya Rudolph? We sure do.

The Happytime Murders is in theaters now.


 

Kevin O'KeeffeKevin O'Keeffe

Kevin O'Keeffe is a writer and 'RuPaul's Drag Race' herstorian. He covers film and TV for INTO, and writes the movie review column "But How Gay Is It?" every Friday.

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