After a ‘string’ of good to great movies, L&D ventured off to see The Happytime Murders and Searching in this, the last official week of the summer in the greater Wisconsinland area, with the results about as satisfying as cold churros from a Taco Bell $5 box. It’s not that we didn’t like them; it’s just that they could have been so much more.
Both movies are built around a gimmick. Happytime features salacious, foul-mouthed, NC17-rated Muppets (though they aren’t really Muppets, 😉), whereas Searching is a seen entirely as an on-line experience, with the entire story unfolding as if the audience is taking different perspectives from a first-person computer interface. Although both movies have their strengths, neither is a strong movie.
Beginning with Happytime, although this is ostensibly a Melissa McCarthy vehicle, Melissa McCarthy isn’t funny in the movie. Instead, we follow around a rumpled Phillip Marlowe of a a Muppet, Phil Phillips (voiced very compellingly by someone named Bill Barretta, who also handles a number of other voices). The Phillips detective has a oddly empathetic charisma about him, despite the clumsy backstory of his going from decorated cop to down-and-out private dick. McCarthy was his former partner and they had a falling out, but now they are reunited to investigate a murderous rampage on the Happytime gang that starred in a hit show from yesteryear. Whatever.
L laughed throughout and seemed to enjoy it. I laughed intermittently and was pretty bored otherwise.
Those of you who saw the trailer know that the movie features some sordid Muppet-on-Muppet back-room action, culminating in an extended silly string money shot. I counted off an initial 15-second spree, with a 15-second follow up.
If you don’t walk out, stick around for the credits, which feature shots of how the puppets were integrated into the film and how some of the green screens, etc, etc… were set up. That, coupled with the relief that the movie was finally over, served as a great three or four minutes of cinema.
The movie also features acquaintance of the L&D (or the L, at least), Maya Rudolph. I kind of liked her here, though she didn’t get a lot in the way of lines.
As for Searching, this is another matter entirely. This is a much higher-quality piece of work. The movie features John Cho as a father trying to track down his missing daughter (played by Sarah Sohn) seen entirely through the prism of internet searches and online content. What secrets does your computer hold about you?
The innovation here has a compelling, if slightly irritating, element to it. I sit at a computer for a good chunk of the day, so once I figured out how the movie was going to play out, I wondered if they could sustain it for the full running time. The answer was no for two reasons. First, there were certain parts, mostly during the back end, where the medium was a mismatch for more effective narration. As a result, the story suffered and I sat and wondered how they might have done it differently than paying too close attention to the story itself. Second, and more problematic, is that the story just sort of unravels. Boomp, boomp, ba doomp, just like that, it goes from a really compelling thriller to a disappointment in the span of a few minutes.
Overall, most of the movie is seen from the father’s perspective, and these worked the best. There were a couple integrations of other perspectives to pull the movie together, but these weren’t integrated throughout, and I think that was really problematic. In either case, I suspect there is something to annoy you in this movie enough that you won’t find it to be the favorite thing you see this summer. All that said, John Cho is really, really good, and, as L says, great acting goes a long way.
We continue to rack up Fandango VIP points, so Happytime definitely over the $2 bar and Searching over the $3 bar. Happytime can definitely be seen as a Netflix or Redbox on the home screen, and I suspect that is the best place to see Searching as well.
From the Trailers: We are both gaga for Gaga, with A Star is Born coming in October. Let us know if you want to attend the Marcus premiere with us. L has informed me that we will not be seeing The (Nine Unch) Nun. Guest reviewers welcome for that one.