Melissa McCarthy’s ‘very graphic’ puppet movie ‘Happytime Murders’ kills at CinemaCon

LAS VEGAS — The clearest, laugh-out-loud reaction for a comedy at CinemaCon thus far has been for The Happytime Murders, an unapologetically raunchy puppet movie starring Melissa McCarthy (coming to theaters Aug. 17).

STX Films chairman Adam Fogelson had a twinkle in his eye when he introduced a “very graphic” first look at the R-rated film directed by Brian Henson, the son of Muppets creator Jim Henson that is more Team America: World Police than The Great Muppet Caper.

Fogelson said he loved the idea that most Muppets (not Elmo) were very different creatures when not entertaining families.

“You know in your hearts, when Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy go home at night and there are no cameras around and no children, it’s filthy,” said Fogelson, calling Happytime Murders “lovable, relate-able, but it’s filthy.”

The audience at the national convention of theater owners was laughing even before the restricted trailer started to the sounds of Kermit the Frog’s innocent Rainbow Song.

Then the f-bombs hit from McCarthy arguing with her puppet detective partner Phil Phillips.

It’s hard to describe the plot details of the murder mystery in a family publication. But it deals with the detective duo trying to find the murderer responsible for killing the stars of a 1980s show called The Happytime Gang.

At one point, McCarthy’s character snorts sugar (a puppet street drug), nearly killing her. She interacts with puppet prostitutes. We see puppet brain kill-shots. The trailer ends with puppet office sex featuring an effect seemingly involving endless cans of Silly String.

“I warned you,” Fogelson said as the lights went up.

The crowd loved it and Happytime Murders had more people talking afterward than Disney’s sneak peek of Solo: A Star Wars Story earlier in the day.

The movie was produced by The Jim Henson Company. McCarthy, a producer with husband Ben Falcone, contributed to Todd Berger’s screenplay. Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, and Elizabeth Banks co-star.