Way back in 2008, the Jim Henson Co. picked up a spec script from Todd Berger that took a standard Muppet trope (a world where people and puppets co-exist and no one thinks it’s weird), turned it on its head (the puppets are treated like second-class citizens), then splashed blood all over that turned head (the puppet stars of a cancelled kids television show start to get killed off), and then threw in some classic crime noir (“a disgraced detective-turned-private eye puppet takes on the case”).
But since that first bit of news about The Happytime Murders, information has been relatively soft (as felt), until today’s brief that IM Global is taking the film (with attached director Brian Henson) to the Berlin International Film Festival next week in hopes of selling it.
While that’s certainly good news, it does come with a caveat – as Deadline Rotterdam claims that “Kathryn Heigl is in advanced negotiations to star,” but maybe there’s some other actress out there named Kathryn Heigl that is an up-and-comer who is super into puppets…or maybe that’s just another one of those little Deadline mistakes that will get corrected without a word later today. Fine, it’s Katherine Heigl who might star in The Happytime Murders, and even if she’s going to be portrayed as a puppet, that’s just unsuitable casting.
I think Sean O’Connell over at Cinema Blend sums it up best, as he writes “if I’m being honest, this sounds far too original for Heigl, whose comfort zone has proven to be relationship comedies with the likes of Josh Duhamel, James Marsden and Gerard Butler. Yes, she thought outside of the box when she played Seth Rogen’s love interest in Knocked Up, but she promptly shit-talked Judd Apatow and the material in subsequent press interviews.” That’s pretty much it in a nutshell – the film sounds way too original and special for someone like Heigl and, though she’s tried to stretch herself in the past, it’s been overshadowed by her often-abrasive personality.
While Heigl has proven bankable in the past, her latest film, last week’s opener One For the Money came in at just third place for the weekend, pulling in $11m against its $40m budget. That soft opening might prove that Heigl is finally on the outs, and that everyone who claimed that the fact that film is based on a very popular series of frisky crime novels would help it out at the box office was wrong. But if that’s so, does that mean that Heigl has wised up and decided to board Happytime to change her image? If that’s the case, fair enough, Heigl, it will do you good to do something different (I still love My Father the Hero).
But, seriously, was Jason Segel not available for this?