‘Meet the Feebles’ (1989): An X-rated Muppet Show.

5 Apr

Meet_the_Feebles_PosterI watched this film for a duality of reasons: on the one hand, I wanted to explore Peter Jackson’s early directorial work, while on the other… I’ll watch any film with puppets, and this particular one is notoriously gruesome. So with trepidation, I watched, and over the course of ninety-three minutes I was repulsed, amused, frightened, sickened, mortified, disturbed and generally entertained. It’s a rare film that can incite such a mixed flurry of emotions, and yet very few people have actually heard of the Feebles, and even fewer have actually met them.

The world is comprised of puppets in this shock-comedy, where the depraved backstage workings of a variety entertainment show are exposed. On the surface, the show appears family-friendly if a little risqué, but backstage the actors’ real personalities are revealed. The cast consists of Heidi, glamorous but slightly, em, obtuse hippo diva; Sebastian the incredibly fey and hilariously uptight fox who directs the show; Sid, the elephant who screwed a chicken; Arthur the chain-smoking worm; Trevor, a porn director and general villainous rat; Bletch, the drug-baron walrus; Harry the STD-stricken rabbit and Robert, the timid newbie actor hedgehog.

Meet the Feebles has a surprisingly intricate plot; for all the immoral vaudeville exploding on screen, there are many intertwining subplots which individually explore a certain taboo or two. Bletch and Heidi’s marriage is crumbling as he bangs whiskered hookers and she devours a bakery, while Harry’s career is ruined by a combination of a paparazzi fly who reports his sexual deviancy, and AIDS. A blossoming romance between Robert and another co-star collides with Trevor’s consternation at not finding a suitable porn actress. Drug dealings, binge drinking and slapstick are interspersed among the most lowbrow humour possible.

Bletch and Heidi, a less than successful couple.

Bletch and Heidi, a less than successful couple.

This is one of the most disgusting films I’ve ever seen. On a purely scatological level this film outdoes any and all Adam Sandler efforts, but what separates Meet the Feebles from one of those shockingly inept crimes against cinema is twofold; for starters, reality is clearly suspended by virtue of having no humans in sight. Sure some of the larger characters are actors masquerading as hippos, walruses, bulldogs and crabs, but they are only remotely humanoid in appearance. This retracts the layer of realism that Sandler movies try to espouse; a puppet kid screwing his puppet teacher would be tame if uncomfortable, but in That’s My Boy it’s just nasty.

Secondly, the intensity of the grossness plays a massive part. Adam Sandler movies take a serious theme – usually some sort of romantic or situational comedies, and works sexually inappropriate jokes into them. Meet the Feebles, on the other hand, tackles taboo like a train; it’s just so over the top and so silly that it’s not even trying to be a serious film, and comes across an attempt at being as revolting as possible, on the writers’ part. But in doing so, it strangely becomes more interesting and much worthier of discussion than any Sandler film.

Movies are often praised for being ‘grounded’, be that in a realistic or a subtle sense. The fairly large budget of $750,000 ensured that neither of these alleged filmic virtues would be present. There are legions of filthy puppets, all voiced by a relatively small number of voice actors. An awful lot really does happen in this film; alongside all the aforementioned madness, a gangland-style drug war reaches its climax with a battle against this Lovecraftian monster, and the film itself literally goes out with quite a bang. I was genuinely wowed by just how much was going on here, and was never lost in all the subplots.

Harry the STD-ridden rabbit is one of the less horrible characters.

Harry the STD-ridden rabbit is one of the less horrible characters.

That said, this is far from ‘high-concept’ cinema; there are too many expelled body fluids for that. It’s hard to believe that the then-rookie director Peter Jackson would go on to direct films such as King Kong and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and produce fairly philosophical works such as District 9, though his taste for massive stories with a myriad of characters does shine through here. Obviously this film won’t appeal to everyone; the lowbrow scatology will prove too vile for some, while many sensitive themes like drug addiction, AIDS and, most recently, mass public shootings may prove unbearably heavy.

Either a direct parody or a homage to The Muppet Show (I’m not sure which), this film is funny as hell. You will be in awe of the level of  licentiousness, and the spectacle of the whole thing. Criminally funny in the lewdest of ways, Meet the Feebles is quite an experience.

Simon says: watch at your own peril, but I recommend it.


One Response to “‘Meet the Feebles’ (1989): An X-rated Muppet Show.”


  1. Monster Legions - April 10, 2013

    […] /* */ /* */ Divinity II: Ego DraconisForming an Anime Tactical SquadPoe’s Pick of the Week & Other New Items from BBTS : Poe Ghostal's Points of ArticulationWhat Shall I Read‘Meet the Feebles’ (1989): An X-rated Muppet Show. […]

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