Starring Danny Mulheron, Donna Akersten, Stuart Devenie, Mark Hadlow, Ross Jolly, Brian Sergent, Peter Vere-Jones, Mark Wright, Jay Snowfield, Doug Wren
Directed by Peter Jackson
Expectations: Moderately high. I expect to like this more this time.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
Meet the Feebles is a film chock full of wild & crazy stuff to talk about, but the sheer amount of wild & crazy stuff is also what makes it so hard to find where to start. Meet the Feebles is a film out of deep, deep left field and it takes a certain type of soul to enjoy it. You’ve got to be pretty warped, and I’m actually pretty proud to say that I enjoy it more and more every time I see it. This is also the first film where Peter Jackson and special FX wizard Richard Taylor worked together, forging a collaborative bond that continues to this day on the Hobbit films. And speaking of The Hobbit, the guy that played the dwarf Dori, Mark Hadlow, was the voice of Heidi the Hippo,
Wobert Robert and Barry the Bulldog all these years back!
But what is Meet the Feebles about? That’s a hard question to answer. Its plot is loose and episodic, telling the story of an entire performing company’s downfall as opposed to just focusing on a couple of its characters. There is something of a hero, and a couple of villains, but mostly it moves seamlessly and quickly through its characters to tell the overall story of the day’s rehearsal leading up to the live Feebles Variety Hour. Oh, and they’re all puppets except for the big characters which are played by people in suits.
But before you start to thinking that this might be some family affair akin to The Muppet Movie, know that Meet the Feebles is one of the raunchiest and most disturbing movies of all time. Perhaps more so because it’s puppets and I grew up watching tons of Muppet content, but I think anyone would have a hard time not being disturbed by the Feebles’ antics. Everything from gigantic walruses getting a blowjob from a slutty feline in lingerie to a Bugs Bunny-esque rabbit with an STD that causes dark, puss-filled legions to form all over his face. And let’s not forget the drug addict frog who’s hard up for his next fix and flashing back to his days in Vietnam. Jesus Christ, this movie is so fucking wild that mere words cannot even hope to capture its insanity.
This was the second Peter Jackson movie I saw (Dead Alive was my first), and if I remember right, I saw it before he started his transition to “serious” movies with Heavenly Creatures. Which means I saw this for the first time when I was around 12. Maybe that explains a lot about my warped sense of humor. I don’t remember liking it much that first time, but I definitely loved how naughty it all was. It felt so wrong, but its raunchy nature seduced me, being the kid generally not allowed to watch horror or other seriously depraved cinema. There’s no way anyone who saw this movie upon its initial release could have imagined that Peter Jackson would ascend to the heights he has reached.
Just like Jim Henson’s Muppet movies, Meet the Feebles takes puppet fantasy to new heights. Peter Jackson went in the complete opposite direction, but he carried with him Henson’s ability to make it seem as if the puppets were capable of literally anything. From a puppeteering standpoint, Meet the Feebles is a genius piece of work. Some of the puppets aren’t of the best construction (I’m looking at you, slutty cat), but their motions and acting is believable and expertly pulled off.
And really, think about how ambitious this movie is. Peter Jackson achieved Henson levels of puppet fantasy, but he’s not Jim Henson. He didn’t devote his life to puppeteering. At this time, Jackson was nothing more than an amateur filmmaker with one movie under his belt, which he made on four years of weekends with his workmates. And then his next movie is a full-on, no-humans puppet movie? The balls on this guy! Just the fact that this movie was completed is something of a triumph, but it’s also a hilarious black comedy, over the top and incredibly well-done. Peter Jackson is a mad genius who clearly never knew the meaning of the word “no,” instead always striving to achieve whatever insane delights his crooked mind could cook up.
But even through all this praise, Meet the Feebles is so stuffed with insane content and non-stop, loud, grating sound, that it does become somewhat hard to keep pushing forward at points. It’s not that the individual scenes are bad, or even boring, it’s just that the human mind can only take so much at once. Between stuff like the chicken busting in on the elephant to demand the he recognize their hybrid elephant-chicken son, the new guy
Wobert Robert (a porcupine) serenading his love with a Spanish guitar and a mariachi outfit, or the devious rat filming nasal sex pornos in the grimy basement, the brain starts to turn to mush at a certain point. I still love the movie, and it ends really strongly with a rousing, violent, gory finale (how many puppet films also have incredible gore?), but it is also kind of annoying in its own way. Whatever, it’s funny as hell, and it’s a movie so singular and unique that it’s hard not to be impressed with it at this point in my life.
Meet the Feebles is a film you should only watch if you’re seriously warped, twisted or fucked up. If that’s you, then you’ll likely get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I’d love to see a remastered, special edition of this film, as every copy released has been a somewhat blurry video master from the early ’90s, and it’s really starting to show its age. In the past, Peter Jackson mentioned going back and producing fully featured DVD editions of all of his films, similar to what was done for everything from The Frighteners on, but I’m still waiting!
Meet the Feebles was Peter Jackson’s second film, and it’s also his second film to feature characters going through the body of another to emerge out their anus. Too bad this didn’t continue to be Jackson’s “director’s trademark” in his Hollywood fare!