Perhaps if you’d never seen Meet the Feebles, or Avenue Q, or Team America: World Police, there might appear to be something creatively transgressive about puppets doing and saying disgusting things. But this limp comedy—about a world where puppets exist side-by-side with humans, and ex-cop/puppet P.I. Phil Philips (veteran Muppets performer Bill Barretta) teams up with his human former partner (Melissa McCarthy) to solve a series of puppet murders—behaves as though it invented the idea, and doesn’t need to do anything interesting with it. Director Brian Henson (yes, son of that Henson) and screenwriter Todd Berger lean into the film noir set-up—including a femme felt-ale setting Philips on the case—giving it the feel of Who Framed Rogering Muppets? But every joke that could have been a bit of clever background business is underlined with a “check out how naughty we’re being” elbow nudge, while the plot does insultingly little with the idea of puppets as a discriminated-against underclass. The few punch lines that do land are buried beneath the laziness of people who don’t understand that getting to an idea fourth means that you have to work harder.
Director: Brian Henson
Producer: Brian Henson, Jeffrey Hayes, Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone, Robert Simonds, Adam Fogelson, Wang Zhongjun, Wang Zhonglei, Felice Bee, Teddy Schwarzman, Ben Stillman, Michael Heimler, Lisa Henson, John Hyde, Dee Robertson and Donald Tang
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, Leslie David Baker, Joel McHale, Cynthy Wu, Michael McDonald, Mitch Silpa, Hemky Madera, Benjamin Royer, Brekkan Spens, Ryan Tran, Emily Feimster, Bill Barretta, Dorien Davies, Kevin Clash and Victor Yerrid