Parental Guidance

In Case It Wasn't Obvious, Don't Take Your Kids to The Happytime Murders

The puppet potboiler isn't for children, but there are plenty of other options you can watch at home with the family.

by | August 24, 2018 | Comments

Yes, they’re plushy, and yes, they’re creations of the Jim Henson Company, but the puppets of The Happytime Murders, new in theaters this week, are decidedly not child-friendly. In case the trailers didn’t make that plainly clear — or in case you missed the trailers altogether — Christy Lemire offers up a last warning before you head to theaters unaware, and then presents a handful of alternatives you can watch at home instead, if you choose.


The Happytime Murders (2018) 23%

Rating: R, for strong crude and sexual content and language throughout, and some drug material.

They may look like the puppets your kids see on Sesame Street, made of colorful felt with sweet faces and kind, googly eyes. But be warned: The characters in The Happytime Murders aren’t here to teach your kids their ABCs and 1-2-3s. They’re too busy having sex, doing drugs, drinking in hot tubs and starring in porn videos – and they’re brought to you by the letter F, over and over again. That’s the gimmick in this extremely hard-R comedy: Seemingly wholesome characters take part in unspeakably unwholesome activities. It’s a vaguely amusing idea and not much more. The Happytime Murders is a one-joke movie, and that joke gets beaten into the ground (as do several characters, people and puppet alike). Among the human actors in this raunchy film-noir send-up are Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, and Elizabeth Banks, all of whom are game for anything. Director Brian Henson – son of the late puppet master Jim Henson – and his team certainly get the opportunity to show off their technical prowess. If only they were working from a more clever script. Following Team America: World Police, Meet the Feebles, and Broadway’s Avenue Q, we’ve seen the naughty-puppet thing done before, and much better. Anyway, keep the kids away. You may want to stay away, too.


There are, however, plenty of family-friendly puppet movies you all can watch together. Here are a few suggestions:

The Muppet Movie (1979) 88%

Rating: G

A beloved classic, and a movie that’s near and dear to the hearts of anyone who grew up in the 1970s. The big-screen version of TV’s The Muppet Show – created by the late, great Jim Henson — finds Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, and the gang enjoying a cross-country road trip to Hollywood to pursue dreams of stardom. But Kermit also becomes the target of a restaurant owner who thinks he’d be the perfect marketing tool to help him sell frog legs. The antics are gently humorous and the comedy is of the wholesome, slapstick nature. The songs, including Rainbow Connection and Movin’ Right Along, are insanely catchy and will be stuck in your head for days afterward. And while there are some villainous figures, they’re pretty ridiculous. This one’s a charmer, and a great choice for the whole family.

Watch now on: AmazonFandangoNOW, iTunes

The Muppets (2011) 95%

Rating: PG, for some mild rude humor.

The Muppets return in top form in this lively, sweet comedy. It finds the world’s biggest Muppet fan (a puppet voiced by Peter Linz) and his human companions (Jason Segel and Amy Adams) crisscrossing the country to gather the gang to stop a greedy oilman – whose name is literally Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) — from tearing down the historic Muppets studio. Of course, the only way to do that is to put on a show, which harkens to the goofy, infectious spirit of the original television variety program. As in the first Muppet Movie, this family-friendly adventure has plenty of upbeat music and physical antics. But there’s also a minor brawl and a few insults tossed around. And of course, we see a bit of romance between Kermit and Miss Piggy. But overall this is by far one of the stronger movies in the Muppet Cinematic Universe, and an excellent choice for all ages.

Watch now on: AmazonFandangoNOWiTunes

Gremlins (1984) 85%

Rating: PG, for adult situations/language, violence.

The rules sound pretty simple. Don’t expose them to bright light, don’t get them wet, and don’t feed them after midnight. That’s all you need to do to care for your adorable, cuddly new friend. But things go horribly, thrillingly wrong in this ‘80s classic that spawned a mania for all things Gizmo. The cute creature that turns monstrous when mishandled is the product of puppetry: the soft fur, the mischievous smile, the buggy eyes and – later – the maniacal grin. Joe Dante’s film is a lot of fun, and it may seem like it’s appropriate for young kids at the outset because of the Mogwai’s appealing appearance. But eventually, it turns violent as Gizmo spawns multiple offspring, who mutate and become hell-bent on wreaking havoc. Out of sheer survival instinct, the humans’ response is just as intense, and there is (understandably) quite a bit of language scattered throughout. Although Gremlins is rated PG, it’s one of the movies that inspired the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating, and it might be a bit much for the youngest viewers. But I’d say it’s fine for kids around 10 and older.

Watch now on: AmazonFandangoNOWiTunes

Tag Cloud

concert twilight Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt crime thriller Freeform emmy awards SXSW political drama Winners Adult Swim Valentine's Day GLAAD award winner based on movie batman blockbuster police drama TCA crime drama CNN Thanksgiving movies Lifetime romance FX on Hulu GoT fast and furious Britbox Rock 2018 breaking bad cooking E! indie superhero Arrowverse Comedy 2015 miniseries X-Men mockumentary blaxploitation Oscars TIFF travel Sony Pictures best Superheroes History critics TruTV IFC Warner Bros. ABC HBO Go TV renewals thriller Film Festival Photos Action golden globes Disney crossover Disney Plus asian-american hollywood sports Logo Disney streaming service zombies Epix composers Musicals Disney Channel Esquire Masterpiece ESPN cartoon worst movies HBO RT History Heroines cancelled TV series Summer transformers BET Awards Pixar LGBT Hulu Netflix Christmas movies TCA Winter 2020 Pop TV screen actors guild facebook harry potter USA Showtime series Amazon Studios football comic TV Apple TV+ Women's History Month psychological thriller comics Creative Arts Emmys adaptation joker game of thrones WarnerMedia sequel Musical Western First Look See It Skip It VICE latino National Geographic toronto MCU spinoff DC Comics reboot binge discovery strong female leads TCA 2017 Pride Month screenings television stop motion richard e. Grant cults DC streaming service venice 2019 all-time SDCC NYCC Emmy Nominations Christmas Red Carpet movie IFC Films mission: impossible festival CBS hispanic hist news VH1 Rom-Com TCA Awards DC Universe APB MSNBC Trailer Tarantino quibi Nickelodeon Set visit halloween romantic comedy Travel Channel vampires historical drama stoner Peacock Pet Sematary The Witch 20th Century Fox die hard Countdown TV Land CMT 72 Emmy Awards Cosplay Trivia TLC PBS crime Music disaster Infographic Brie Larson foreign independent Marvel Television Horror scary movies dc documentary dceu Mary Tyler Moore medical drama Ovation biography Grammys child's play DirecTV spain Amazon Prime The Walking Dead cats parents sequels ratings doctor who natural history Mary poppins Chilling Adventures of Sabrina cops Podcast elevated horror politics Star Wars sag awards dogs Film Drama PlayStation 24 frames YouTube Premium Paramount Academy Awards Pop Hallmark Christmas movies TCM Amazon Trophy Talk classics RT21 Tubi period drama Super Bowl Disney+ Disney Plus Sundance AMC Star Trek Nat Geo Song of Ice and Fire Shondaland jamie lee curtis Winter TV name the review canceled Black History Month Comics on TV Chernobyl Rocketman cars Ghostbusters Discovery Channel Fox News FX Pirates Holidays ghosts 71st Emmy Awards Lifetime Christmas movies serial killer Martial Arts Premiere Dates Columbia Pictures satire 2016 unscripted cancelled TV shows Television Critics Association boxoffice Crunchyroll video on demand nature robots war zero dark thirty Tumblr El Rey worst Biopics CW Seed Fall TV Watching Series Netflix Dark Horse Comics Rocky teaser The CW children's TV Video Games a nightmare on elm street nbcuniversal Turner TBS First Reviews Reality Vudu diversity justice league 007 dark Turner Classic Movies Animation Marathons Hear Us Out TNT FXX finale obituary werewolf DGA Stephen King Polls and Games cinemax BBC America Mudbound toy story Teen Cartoon Network Emmys President Marvel Studios Sundance TV Elton John Sci-Fi chucky casting laika Ellie Kemper The Purge Superheroe 45 Spike Holiday Quiz Country docudrama sitcom Schedule Classic Film Universal USA Network Apple TV Plus Family Reality Competition YouTube Red spy thriller talk show Hallmark PaleyFest cancelled television Captain marvel versus The Arrangement Sneak Peek Nominations Sundance Now OneApp Tomatazos Awards Tour Funimation 2017 book anime Lionsgate Toys NBC canceled TV shows Mindy Kaling BAFTA Fantasy Marvel free movies universal monsters 4/20 21st Century Fox rotten nfl rotten movies we love Spring TV LGBTQ mutant Shudder SundanceTV dragons Food Network zombie Kids & Family Starz anthology spider-man A24 christmas movies OWN criterion dramedy singing competition Box Office renewed TV shows Year in Review streaming psycho Syfy supernatural game show Interview Black Mirror Baby Yoda kids 2020 documentaries Awards directors Endgame Walt Disney Pictures stand-up comedy Character Guide Calendar Comic Book south america MTV comiccon Certified Fresh aliens Spectrum Originals Bravo films Cannes FOX true crime Writers Guild of America space Extras BBC One green book ABC Family ITV remakes spanish language Paramount Network YouTube Avengers Anna Paquin technology Mystery E3 Election Best and Worst animated Mary Poppins Returns social media video slashers New York Comic Con Television Academy WGN Opinion Lucasfilm cancelled San Diego Comic-Con tv talk VOD CBS All Access GIFs Crackle indiana jones revenge adventure theme song franchise Acorn TV Binge Guide comedies Amazon Prime Video Comedy Central what to watch Apple YA reviews scorecard festivals witnail American Society of Cinematographers BBC HBO Max A&E BET science fiction