Meet the Feebles (1989)
By Caroline Rennox
‘Not your average, ordinary people.’
Re-watching Meet the Feebles was a bit of strange experience. I’m sure I had fond memories of watching it first time round but watching it again, there was very little to enjoy.
The film features the same hallmarks of the other early Jackson movies in that goes full out to provoke laughter and disgust in equal measure from its audience. There’s a rabbit with an STD, a literal muckraking journalist bluebottle and a knife-throwing frog suffering from flashbacks to ‘Nam, but these basic ideas never seem to be fleshed out into actual jokes. Like many Muppets parodies - see ‘The Fuzz’ - the film seems to rely on a dark and distasteful version of Hensons’ sweet-natured dreamers as being inherently funny.
Like Bad Taste, the general plot of the film is pretty straightforward - The Feebles’ cast are trying to put on a show to save the company but everything keeps going wrong. The main storyline follows Heidi the hippo - once the star of the show but now an overweight, has-been with a dated routine. Bullied and laughed at behind her back, Heidi eventually snaps and murders the whole cast with a machine gun in the film’s bloody finale.
Maybe it’s the fact that the movie is so visually un-appealing which sucks a bit of the joy out of it for me. Much of the film is dark and distinctly under-lit. Movies which rely so heavily on puppetry and practical effects are notoriously difficult, and it may that some of the dim and hazy look to the film is just covering the seams.
There are a few bright spots to be had - Sebastian the fox’s showstopping musical number about the joys of sodomy did earn a bit of a giggle from me but then it does feature huge phallic columns spurting glitter all over the stage. The entire thing is ridiculously over the top and it helps that he’s one of the few characters who aren’t completely irredeemable.
Overall the film is clearly the weakest of the three. The script was re-written rather hastily at the last minute and the cumbersome effects led to the whole thing going over budget and over schedule - a familiar story for anyone who saw the similarly disappointing Hobbit trilogy. technically ambitious but ultimately not fulfilling.
The film does have a bit of a cult following and whether or not it’s funny is obviously highly subjective. Jackson has described the film as a savage satire but for me any satirical point is lost amidst the need to shock more than anything else. While I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, I would say it’s worth watching even purely out of curiosity. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover that aardvark on bovine nasal porn is the hilarious kink you never knew you had.
Meet The Feebles (1989) Trailer