The Underrated: Meet the Feebles
I’m going to hell for this one.
There are films out there that skirt the boundaries of poor taste. There are films out there that can see the boundaries of taste but push them anyway. There are films out there that stray over the wrong side of the boundary of bad taste. Then there’s Meet the Feebles- the film that knows damned well what is acceptable and then decides to take a huge dump on it.
This may at first seem like a strange choice for an underrated, because those that have seen it tend to think it’s a superb, albeit sick, little satire. However, the vast majority of cinema viewers haven’t even heard of Jackson’s second film, let alone seen it. It hasn’t got a DVD release in most of the world (Lovefilm deny it exists) and I personally think this is harsh. Sure, it isn’t exactly the film you’d take home to meet your mother, but it is a creative, deliberately offensive and downright riotous spoof of, amongst other things, The Muppet Show. And when would that ever be considered to be a bad thing?
To be absolutely clear from the off, this isn’t the antichrist of spoof cinema like it’s made out to be. I suppose people must get upset by it because of some sort of attachment to the Muppets, but in all honesty it isn’t even the most offensive spoof of Henson’s creation (in my opinion that still goes to Kermit the Frog’s cover of Nine inch Nails’ Hurt). It is, however, probably the only one out there with such a wide range of degenerate behaviour on display. There’s a sex-crazed rabbit that may or may not have AIDS, a compulsive eating hippo that eventually goes beserk with a machine gun. A blue elephant with a weak bladder and a paternity suit, a truly degenerate rat, a drugs kingpin walrus, and a green newt/ frog with a heroin habit and ‘nam flashbacks. Not to mention the homosexual fox stage manager and the shit-eating fly journalist. How could any of that possibly be seen as offensive?
Meet the Feebles follows the backstage dress rehearsal of a variety act before their big show. The rehearsal isn’t going very well, in all honesty, as the star attraction, Heidi the Hippo, is on the brink of a breakdown, the knife thrower is in heavy heroin withdrawal, the rabbit has come down with a terrible and disgusting disease due to unhygienic sex and the boss, Bletch the Walrus, is either balls deep in upcoming star Sandra the cat or involved in heavy duty drugs deals. This is all really an excuse for gross out humour of the highest order, some sharp writing hidden under it all and a veritable mound of piss-taking.
The puppet work isn’t exactly earth shatteringly brilliant, but it doesn’t need to be because the Muppets weren’t exactly the height of brilliance either. It is, however, accurate and appropriate in its depiction of a puppet world. None of the characters give any heed to interacting with other species, there’s inter-special sex galore, predators talk to prey and so forth. They are actually remarkably human in their behaviour.
As briefly touched upon, the writing is sharp. I know this sounds ostensibly daft in something that is basically a series of gross sight gags, but I’ll use the Vietnam/ Deer Hunter parody as an example. The heroin addled knife thrower explains to his hedgehog assistant about his time “in hell”- he was captured by “Charlie” and put through a terrible torture that comes straight out of The Deer Hunter. However, before the Russian Roulette, there is an absolutely priceless “re-education” session conducted by the Viet Cong, where the GI’s are schooled in front of a blackboard with “Lyndon Johnson is a very bad egg” on it. When the Vietcong are by themselves it is even sharper with an exchange mocking the purity of socialism and debating whether capitalism should be allowed on a “Village level”. This is clever stuff. Of course, it’s really an excuse to take the piss- but that doesn’t mean it isn’t clever.
The final disastrous show emphasises this- with an audience of morons howling away at the elephant’s genuine discomfort, or rolling in the aisles with laughter when the knife thrower accidentally nails himself in the head. They’re cretins and it appears that the only thing they won’t find funny is a song, performed by a gay fox standing between two giant cocks about sodomy. Tasteful.
Then there’s the character writing. It’s sharp. Trevor the Rat (the funniest character in the film) is an absolute degenerate. He’s filming shady porn (really shady porn) in the basement, and dealing heroin to the cast. He’s slimy, oily and disgusting an ideal henchman to Bletch. Robbie the hedgehog has a pleasing naivete- his love for Lucy the Poodle (before she’s subverted by Trevor) is strangely touching, and Harry the Rabbit is a dying degenerate that truly believes that his fans love him regardless. It’s all clever stuff.
Having said all that, though, the real reason to watch and enjoy this film is that it is offensive. The bad taste is everywhere and very, very funny. A contortionist gets his head stuck in his own rectum, the porn filming has to be seen to be believed, the fly is horrible and Bletch rules over it all through a combination of bullying, sadism and playing on their vices. This is nasty stuff- but also very, very funny stuff. When Heidi eventually falls over the edge and goes on her machine gun rampage through the cast, it’s both deserved and amusing- although watching fuzzy puppets be detonated could be upsetting for some. Wimps.
Overall, Meet the Feebles is another Jackson film that’s more than overdue rehabilitation. Part of the reason that it’s been lost is that the dick was rude about it in his oscar acceptance speech, but in all honesty I’d rather watch this than the pile of excrement he won for. We’ve mentioned this a lot recently, but he was a much more fun director before he discovered dieting and success discovered him, and I wish he’d go back to his perverse roots and stop making pompous garbage that bores me to tears. That won’t stop the Tolkien fetishists from tearing me one for this, but there’s a creativity lacking in his Hollywood output that he had in abundance in his early days. Meet the Feebles is a great little film, and well worth watching.
Until next time,