THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS: You know a movie is really crappy when the best thing about it is that it doesn’t last very long. Humans interacting with puppets in raunchy R-rated fashion sounds like a potentially promising premise since inanimate characters can always push harder on the boundaries of good taste in humor. And I will say there are some visually hilarious sequences that parody the happy endings found in pornos. Unfortunately, they only make up about ten percent of this joyless exercise where a down on his luck puppet private investigator (voiced by Bill Beretta) reteams with a former police partner (Melissa McCarthy) to solve the murders of the former cast of a popular puppet television show. If it sounds like a plot that’s difficult to glean comic material from, trust me when I say that it doesn’t. Todd Berger and Dee Austin Robertson’s screenplay attempts to interject humor with a parody of film noir detective stories but winds up doing neither very well making a viewer wonder just exactly what they’re trying to accomplish here. There’s a lot of what I call “joking the joke” where a gag is repeated over and over even though it might not have been all that funny to begin with. But that’s characteristic of a work with anorexically thin material and this one is creatively malnourished. McCarthy (BRIDESMAIDS), who co-produced this mess with husband Ben Falcone, is utterly wasted here and her verbal interplay with Beretta’s blue-faced gumshoe is flat and at times, positively grating. Since the puppets depicted in this flick are portrayed as the lower caste of culture, there may be an effort to make a sort of statement against class or racial discrimination. But that “message” is abruptly jettisoned and gets totally lost in a movie where we’re never sure if puppets getting their heads blown off in all their fluffy, feather-like carnage is supposed to make us laugh or wince.

CRITIC’S GRADE: D

CLOSING CREDITS: By far, the funniest, most irreverent all-puppet movie has to be TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE (2004) about a squad of blundering but well-meaning Americans who fight terrorism around the world. Written by “South Park’s” Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the title characters (Technically, they’re marionettes.) take on North Korean leader Kim Jong Il while also satirically skewering American foreign relations, the Hollywood Left and actor/activists like Alec Baldwin (MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE-FALLOUT) plus stereotypes of Muslim terrorists. There are terrifically original songs like “America…F_ _ _ Yeah!” and “Freedom Isn’t Free (It Costs A Buck O Five For You And Me)”. If that isn’t enough to draw you in, a scene involving wild marionette style porno is by itself worth a view.