You wouldn’t know that this film has any ties to the legendary Jim Henson by the sheer amount of raunch and filth it contains. It’s this precise filth that attracted me to it in the first place, as a world of puppets and humans engaging in lewd behavior isn’t something you see on the screen very often. I have a juvenile sense of humor, and dirty puppets was one of the best skits on Dave Chappelle’s show back in the late ‘90s. The red band trailer shows potential for a fantastic blend of obscenity and humor, but unfortunately, the humor ends with the trailer. The obscenity continues.

In an alternative reality, humans are living alongside Muppets, who are naturally second-class citizens. When a string of murders targets the cast of an old kids show called “The Happytime Gang,” private investigator Phil Philips (voiced by Bill Barretta) teams with his old partner, Detective Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) to solve the caper. As the murders pile up, the two become deeper entrenched in the mystery, ultimately landing right in the middle of the crime spree themselves.

The fun, upbeat tone of the absurdity is minimized by the vulgarity, particularly the unnecessary language and in-your-face puppet sexuality. The film falls to such depths of depravity that we even have a Sharon Stone interrogation scene, a la “Basic Instinct.” But with a buxom Muppet. It just didn’t feel funny; it was kind of gross.

Melissa McCarthy was a solid choice for the role of Detective Edwards, but there was too bitter of an edge to her character. She had been burned by her partner’s mistake years ago, and couldn’t get the chip off her shoulder, which made her a bit of a Debbie Downer. She shines brightest in scenes where she is excited and happy (high on sucrose), or bantering with Muppets in a witty repartee of insults and comebacks. There just aren’t enough of these scenes to make up for the rest of the film’s shortcomings.

Director Brian Henson (yep, it’s that famous Muppeteer Henson’s son) has a new production company, aptly named “Alternative Henson,” and it ushers in a new generation of edgier, R-rated puppeteering. Maybe I’m getting old, but there is something sacred and nostalgic in my mind about the Sesame Street brand. So innocent and child-centric. To bring a sharp edge to it just doesn’t quite work. At least not the way it was done here.

Writer Todd Berger makes his feature debut with this commendable film noir that really had potential had it gone another direction. I like the idea of a world where humans and puppets coexist, and I like the story of a murder mystery. I even like the tough, no-nonsense Muppet detective working with a traditional comedian to solve the mystery. However, this could have been done with a PG rating and attracted a much wider audience (more money, potential franchise). It could have easily maintained the humor while preserving some dignity.

The tagline of Sex. Murder. Puppets. Pretty well sums the film up, but I would add nonsense and gratuitous to the advertisement. The best part of the film was the end credits’ behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, but I shuddered in embarrassment for the people in green-screen suits simulating sex with their puppets. Just plain weird, but maybe I’m not the target demographic (if not me, then who is?)

“The Happytime Murders” may tickle your funny bone if you’re in the right mood, but I guarantee it would have made a bigger box office splash if they had stuck to a PG rating. One of the worst films of the year so far.