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By Christopher Zinsli | May 16, 2004

Puppets today. From “Crank Yankers” to “Avenue Q” to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, today’s puppets are saying and doing things that would make Jim Henson roll over in his grave. They’re rude and crude and expose parts of their anatomy that would get a human arrested for indecent exposure.
In this vein is “Murder, He Sqeaked,” the story of a dog named Sparky who suddenly finds himself number two in the eyes of his owner, Evelyn. When Evelyn brings home her new boyfriend, Bill, Sparky watches helplessly as Bill steals everything—his master’s love, his tummy rubs, even his spot on the bed.
Sparky narrates in voiceover like a hard-boiled detective. “My mind was racing like a really fast brain,” he says. How could he get back into Evelyn’s affections? Pondering this question drives Sparky insane (you can tell because one of his ping-pong ball eyes is suddenly larger than the other). The answer comes to him when his chew toy, a rubber mouse named Mr. Squeaks, comes alive and offers Sparky a solution: he must murder Bill, “deader than a dead guy who died.”
Sparky’s initial attempts, suffocation (“Quick. Neat. Perfect.”) and pulling Bill into traffic (“Quick. Messy. Perfect.”), only get Sparky a hair-drier planted in his posterior and a full body cast, respectively. “It hurt like a painful hurt that ached,” Sparky tells us. Though this joke gets old pretty quickly, the movie has plenty of other clever setups and puns. (When Sparky sneaks up on Bill, his ominous breathing becomes playful panting.)
The movie attempts to spoof film noir conventions through unconvincing black-and-white digital video. Had it been done on film and the cinematography (particularly the lighting) been stronger, the whole enterprise might have seemed more authentic, instead of a noir knockoff. Still, “Murder, He Squeaked” is funny and irreverent enough that it could have felt at home screening alongside “Meet the Feebles” or as a skit on Robert Smigel’s short-lived Comedy Central series “TV Funhouse.”

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