Nearly five years ago, we brought you word that Brian Henson of The Jim Henson Company had teamed up with Lionsgate for a new movie, an R-rated puppet noir called The Happytime Murders. The film sounded promising, with a Black List-featured script, a Who Framed Roger Rabbit?-esque premise, and a slightly unsettling promise of lots and lots of puppet sex. But then, like a lifetime of bad memories disappearing down a bottle, or a hand disappearing up a surly gumshoe puppet’s back, Happytime seemed to vanish, receding back into the inky blackness of shadows and regret.
Fast forward to today, when it was announced that Henson would be teaming up with the newly formed STX Entertainment to give the film another gasp at cloth-and-blood existence. The script, since rewritten by Red and Red 2 scribes Erich and Jon Hoeber, still centers on a world where puppets exist as second-class citizens, presumably because a lot of people involved watched Greg The Bunny and thought it seemed like a pretty good deal. The plot kicks off when the stars of an old puppet TV show, The Happytime Gang, start dying off one by one, and a disgraced felt private eye is forced to team up with his old human partner in order to crack the case.
Henson is still set to direct, sending his hand-operated protagonist down those mean streets a doll must go, who is not himself mean, who is neither unraveled nor afraid. It remains to be seen whether the same casting and tone problems that bedeviled the first production will rear up again, like a bad memory or a puppeteer-crippling hand cramp, or if The Happytime Murders are finally ready to get solved.