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 MOVIE

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.


THE RECOMMENDATIONS

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

dceu critic resources young adult Pet Sematary 24 frames Disney+ Disney Plus mutant Neflix VH1 facebook book Christmas Valentine's Day psycho indiana jones transformers VICE spy thriller Cosplay FX Country based on movie Premiere Dates series anime golden globe awards reviews free movies king kong Fox Searchlight TCM satire TLC ABC Signature legend Columbia Pictures Tarantino CMT psychological thriller godzilla HBO Max Apple TV Plus BBC America Pop TV A24 National Geographic biopic Mudbound Discovery Channel chucky SundanceTV feel good diversity Paramount Network Shondaland Red Carpet PBS Photos Adult Swim Year in Review Creative Arts Emmys toy story miniseries Travel Channel 93rd Oscars Video Games Sci-Fi Freeform 2020 science fiction franchise fresh dramedy wonder woman Amazon Prime Warner Bros. Paramount tv talk Syfy razzies directors debate VOD Bravo children's TV worst south america Women's History Month Tokyo Olympics X-Men TV renewals aapi AMC Character Guide crime Disney canceled TV shows halloween tv Kids & Family black A&E Reality Competition breaking bad docuseries Musical true crime Anna Paquin renewed TV shows festival sitcom screenings FXX spider-man new york christmas movies Toys Mary poppins gangster HBO Go Amazon justice league Superheroe NBA Drama Spike RT History blaxploitation 1990s popular WGN 45 hollywood comic dc blockbusters know your critic live event quibi all-time Mary Poppins Returns Cannes richard e. Grant Instagram Live Lifetime adenture trailers Turner Amazon Prime Video Hallmark Wes Anderson a nightmare on elm street superman spanish E! Lucasfilm vampires First Look The CW nature canceled Universal Pictures Pixar harry potter Song of Ice and Fire classics telelvision vs. Apple TV Land romance Esquire versus Biopics IMDb TV YouTube mcc Tomatazos comic books archives Thanksgiving Action American Society of Cinematographers Holidays Netflix Disney streaming service The Walking Dead Hallmark Christmas movies Legendary marvel cinematic universe OWN robots Marathons superhero Calendar PaleyFest SDCC Quiz films Sony Pictures TIFF spain fast and furious APB BET Awards laika DirecTV Netflix Christmas movies LGBT Sundance Now 2019 james bond basketball WarnerMedia sag awards Disney Plus historical drama Sneak Peek CNN rom-coms zombies Vudu crime drama cops Logo zombie PlayStation mockumentary Tumblr Crunchyroll Grammys Extras batman DGA 20th Century Fox football dogs MTV Ghostbusters Pride Month Podcast Best and Worst witnail streaming NBC Starz australia Broadway singing competition DC Universe 2017 hispanic heritage month posters Avengers monster movies dexter comic book movie FOX women video hidden camera Infographic cults cinemax Emmys discovery IFC Nickelodeon Awards Tour Rock IFC Films Epix concert asian-american video on demand obituary TV One Spectrum Originals japan DC streaming service San Diego Comic-Con hist MCU movie SXSW best sequels high school E3 mission: impossible Comics on TV halloween Dark Horse Comics GLAAD adaptation Hear Us Out ghosts Black Mirror kong Exclusive Video spinoff sports Comedy Comic Book 71st Emmy Awards The Walt Disney Company comic book movies teaser 73rd Emmy Awards cooking rt labs game show Funimation Endgame BBC venice aliens Alien golden globes biography french Film twilight independent spanish language comics mob Stephen King technology king arthur New York Comic Con Disney Channel TCA Winter 2020 streaming movies cancelled TV series Amazon Studios The Academy ABC BET LGBTQ Family TBS ABC Family Election black comedy universal monsters Baby Yoda hispanic Box Office YA festivals japanese Academy Awards Trailer Fox News composers Star Trek DC Comics ID Summer name the review dragons stoner serial killer kids comedies dreamworks Food Network Elton John elevated horror Universal Rocketman Classic Film kaiju new star wars movies Chernobyl disaster Watching Series FX on Hulu action-comedy HBO worst movies animated The Purge Lionsgate 4/20 sequel Fall TV CBS 99% deadpool BBC One italian book adaptation CBS All Access scary stand-up comedy GoT MSNBC Teen Mary Tyler Moore target Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Music Winter TV casting unscripted Comic-Con@Home 2021 binge Animation Shudder revenge Masterpiece Image Comics international rt archives Acorn TV slashers jamie lee curtis Nominations Showtime The Witch strong female leads rotten movies we love YouTube Premium boxoffice Schedule 2015 Mystery CW Seed spider-verse police drama die hard OneApp new zealand live action Interview travel Turner Classic Movies news documentaries indie ESPN The Arrangement politics game of thrones political drama art house heist movie Lifetime Christmas movies Peacock Chilling Adventures of Sabrina natural history TNT Heroines lord of the rings stop motion scorecard TCA 2017 medical drama Television Critics Association Nat Geo documentary boxing Marvel Studios cars Oscars Horror Musicals AMC Plus First Reviews werewolf saw cancelled television Star Wars Sundance TV royal family USA Opinion prank TCA Winners Emmy Nominations marvel comics Television Academy space docudrama joker 2021 Cartoon Network Spring TV finale what to watch rotten 90s History scene in color ViacomCBS 2018 TruTV Walt Disney Pictures cats TV movies TV crime thriller dark Film Festival green book remakes Pirates doctor who Arrowverse period drama Pacific Islander Marvel Television genre cancelled rt labs critics edition El Rey Hulu Ellie Kemper nbcuniversal Superheroes Trophy Talk romantic comedy RT21 cartoon GIFs movies television BAFTA 2016 Crackle olympics Western Fantasy Ovation pirates of the caribbean nfl 72 Emmy Awards Sundance Apple TV+ thriller suspense Tubi critics child's play Rocky 007 cancelled TV shows Certified Fresh anthology Rom-Com USA Network reboot war TCA Awards 21st Century Fox President ratings latino scary movies Black History Month Polls and Games Holiday crossover NYCC talk show toronto foreign emmy awards blockbuster Comedy Central theme song Awards Reality Countdown comiccon ITV criterion YouTube Red Writers Guild of America social media jurassic park Paramount Plus adventure 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards zero dark thirty Mindy Kaling Britbox slasher See It Skip It Captain marvel sopranos screen actors guild Marvel Pop Set visit Martial Arts award winner supernatural Trivia Binge Guide parents Super Bowl Brie Larson