December 8, 2023

Yuletide lunacy laced with grotesque gore: Happy! is Christmas pulp fiction

This might be the craziest show I have seen in a long time. There’s nothing in this show that isn’t completely insane. The (anti-) hero is a cockamamie nutjob, the gangsters are certified wackos and as side-kicks go a blue-and-pink, bucktoothed, animated flying donkey with a unicorn horn (voiced by Patton Oswalt, the infamous Spencer Olchin of the iconic sitcom King of Queens) is … well, totally crazy. This doesn’t come as a surprise though because Happy! is based on a pulpy comic book miniseries of the same name created by Grant Morrison (co-creator of the TV series together with Brian Taylor) and Darick Robertson. 

Right into the first couple of minutes of the show we’re witnessing a guy (Christopher Meloni) resembling Liam Neeson on crack cocaine who is staring into a scuzzy mirror in a scuzzy loo in a scuzzy bar about to push a large gun into his mouth and blow his brains out. Oops, he actually does blow his brains out and while gooey red brain matter gushes out of the back of his head he goes straight to … where the hell does he go to? Suddenly Liam-crack-cocaine-Neeson is surrounded by hip-shaking dancers in spangly 1970s outfits and Meloni def has got the moves. Hang on, is he actually dead or still alive and dreaming? This darkly comical intro sets the stage for a Christmassy tale filled with blood, grotesque gore, imaginary friends, car accidents and gun fights. Pretty much all you need for that warm, fuzzy Christmassy feeling …

There is actually no point trying to figure out whether the man who was staring into the mirror (named Nick Sax, a former hero cop turned hit man) is dead or alive because he has so much booze in his veins that we can’t say for sure whether he really tops himself or just fantasizes about it. Still, in the spirit of The Sixth Sense we assume he is alive until we might find out at the end of the show that he is, in fact, already dead. Am I saying that Happy! bares any resemblance to The Sixth Sense? No, I am not saying that. Happy! is nothing like The Sixth Sense at all. Thankfully, I might add.

This show is crackalackin’ good stuff. Wacky, weird, gonzo, gory and a bit Yuletidy as well. In a David Lynch kinda way. And it features a small animated donkeycorn (what DO you call a flying blue donkey with a horn on its head?)what more can you ask for? The show has it all, yet it is probably not suitable for every viewer because Happy! is an acquired taste. Let me rephrase thisit is definitively not suitable for people who take themselves too seriously!

Back to the surreal world of Happy and Sax. The cop-turned-hitman has too many problems to list them here but I will mention just a few to give you a taster: drinking, drugs, gambling, shooting people (and enjoying it), being hit by cars, falling of buildings, having heart attacks …. and, of course, he never calls home.

Thank the god of animated donkeycorns that Happy suddenly appears while Sax is careered to the hospital in the midst of a near death experience. Happy is the imaginary friend of Sax’s daughter Halley (Bryce Lorenzo) although he doesn’t know yet that he has a daughter. What Nick also doesn’t know is whether he has finally lost all his marbles because he’s talking to a flying donkeycorn speaking in platitudes that no one else can see.

Christopher Meloni has found his funny bones after playing Elliot Stabler, TV’s angriest cop in the somewhat mediocre cop show Law & Order: SVU. And Meloni is still angry in Happy! He is fuming with rage but in a very convoluted and confused way and cannot be taken seriously except by his victims which usually only happens AFTER he shot them.

Nick’s most recent job in Happy! involves icing four Mafiosi which he gleefully does. Henceforth, he is wanted by mobsters above all uber-crime lord Franciso Scaramucci (Ritchie Coster), the cops and Happy who wants Nick to find his friend Halley because she has been snatched by a very naughty Santa (Joseph D. Reitman). Creepy Santa abducts children, imprisoning them in crates so that horrible people can do unspeakable things to them later. This lurid tale leaves no stone unturned to kill off any Christmassy feelings you might have ever had once and for all.

It is a joy to witness what Happy! does to the American Christmas mythos starting with Nick’s blatant disregard for the holiday season. Of course, as you might have guessed, a happy family Christmas could be the epitome of Sax’s secret desires but in a show like this it’s just not meant to be …

by Frank H Diebel



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