Monday, November 15, 2010

Meet the Feebles (Peter Jackson, 1989)

Anyone else turned on by the sight of a jilted female hippopotamus mowing down her peers with a large machine gun? Anyone? Leaky centrifuge in a picnic basket, oh, how I wish I could see all your hands sheepishly being raised after that question was reluctantly asked, because I'm feeling a tad uncertain about how far I should go when it comes to extolling the virtues of puppets in lingerie. Part of me wants to inundate the reader with overly detailed descriptions of all the gross and inappropriate behaviour that takes place in this film, the other half is noodling with this ill-conceived plan that involves acting like that I was offended by what I just saw transpire before me. I wonder which half is going to win out? Anyway, Meet the Feebles–Peter Jackson's pus and vomit-laden puppet opus about all the backstage chicanery that takes place at a television variety show–is the name of the film I am currently pretending to be conflicted about. If the name "Peter Jackson" sounds familiar, well, that's because he is best known as the man behind the films that make up The Lord of the Rings Trilogy–you know, those long ass movies that came out a few years back about a plucky gal named Éowyn and her struggle to survive in a fantastical world overrun with catapults and talking trees. I don't know 'bout you, but the thought, "Why couldn't have the adventures of Frodo Baggins and the gang been more like this?" was constantly bouncing around in my head as the film's "menagerie of puppety oddballs" went from one degrading situation to another.

On the surface, the film appears to be about a wide-eyed, Barbara Walters-esque porcupine named Robert and his attempt to fit in as a chorus singer at The Feebles Variety Hour, a lively show produced by Sebastian, a fudge-packing fox ("You might find it odd of me / But I enjoy the act of sodomy"), in a theatre owned by Bletch, a lascivious walrus. However, beneath that simple premise lies a pockmarked wasteland, one that is, of course, covered with a wide array of festering sores just waiting to be squeezed and licked clean by an undervalued Ukrainian pornstar.

Covering drug abuse, suicide, the AIDS epidemic, the conflict in Vietnam (1955-1975), fatherhood (a white chicken files a paternity suite against a blue elephant), sausage rolls, backroom pornography, tabloid journalism, food addiction, and infidelity, Meet the Feebles tackles all these issues with a sublime, understated crudeness.

The dangers of heroin (liquid sky, smack, white pony) and the trauma that inevitably comes with enduring years of jungle warfare are both covered when we meet Wynyard, a strung-out, knife-throwing frog. His flashback to his days in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive was one of the many surreal highlights of this strange film. Now I've seen this particular conflict depicted a number of different ways over the years, but never have I seen it portrayed with frog puppets.

A bunny rabbit named Harry is diagnosed with an unnamed disease, but we all know what he's got (at least I thought we did). Either way, it seems he has performed "bunnilingus" one too many times. A singer by trade, Harry tries desperately to keep his illness under wraps. Unfortunately, a reporter was on the wall while the playboy rabbit was getting the bad news. Why was the reporter on the wall, you ask? Well, because he's a fly, that's why.

Coming in second place just behind the star of the show with the gigantic thighs and chocolate-covered cleavage in terms of being ultra dandy, the fly newsman (voiced by Brian Sergent) was a wonderfully disgusting sight to behold. Whether snooping in the shadows or eating bunny shit straight from the bowl, the gossipy fly was one of the film's most fascinating characters. (Quirky fly-fact: The fly likes to eat shit with a spoon.)

Bored with filming strictly udder-based pornography, Trevor, a surly, chain-smoking rat (who, at times, seemed to be channeling squirrelly actor Peter Lorre), decides to change things up after Daisy the cow accidentally crushes her cockroach co-star. Discovering a pantie-obsessed aardvark (oh, my, does this movie rule or what?) while he was on yet another "smelly minge binge" in the theatres laundry room (a.k.a. pantie sniffers paradise), Trevor inadvertently invents "nasal sex." You see, while plowing into Daisy's udders, the aardvark would ejaculate mucus all over the cow's chest and face.

Unafraid to film ambitious set pieces involving giant puppets, Peter Jackson stages a golf course drug deal (Bletch, with help from Barry the Bulldog, buys heroin from a warthog with a Scottish accent) and a dockyard melee. The highlight of the latter is when Trevor and Bletch battle a giant spider and drive their limousine through the blood-soaked innards of a massive sea creature.

In-between all this puppetry-based mayhem, a tragic figure emerges in the shapely form of Heidi the Hippo, the main draw of the Feebles Variety Hour. In a tempestuous relationship with Bletch, bullied by Samantha the Cat, repeatedly mocked by Trevor the Rat (he compares her singing voice to a mongoose with throat cancer), belittled by Sebastian the Fox, and under the sugary spell of sweats (in one scene, she cleans out an entire cake shop), Heidi's sanity is severely compromised when she discovers Bletch's colossal walrus cock tonsil deep inside a conniving kitty. In other words, the full-bosomed hippo is very close to losing total control of her well-formed faculties. Luckily for Heidi, her recent weight gain and lack of knowledge when comes to firearm safety prevent her from harming herself. Unluckily for everyone else, Heidi decides instead that she wants payback.

I've said it once and I'll say it again: Every movie could benefit from having a hippopotamus in a garter belt go on a vengeful shooting spree, while a fox, standing underneath a sky filled with clouds shaped like butt-cheeks, sings about the many virtues of anal sex in-between two phallus inspired pillars. I won't lie, I found myself drawn to Heidi, sexually and spiritually. Her touching rendition of "Garden of Love" was titillating on a number of irregular levels. Call me sweaty and deranged, but there's nothing sexier than an angry hippo with a large gun.

The sight of all those the spent shell casings spewing out from Heidi's M-60 brought a misguided tear to my eye. Not just because I appreciate it when guns in movies spew shell casings, but because it made all the stuff involving projectile bunny vomit, torrential pachyderm piss, yellow crab guts, close-quarter coprophagia, melting henchmen, splattering pus, aardvark mucus, bulldog arterial spray, and mammary gland erotica seem worthwhile.

While my parts of brain are still debating the merits of this film, my penetrating, Majandra Delfino eyes and the idealistic contents of my discerning crotch both give it a standing ovation.

video uploaded by PStormie



  1. I was always a big fan of the Muppets, set enter in the fact of Peter Jackson and dirty zaniness, I might be in for a wild ride.

    I'm sure I'd be turned on by the image as well. Life has a lot of weird, and i'm part of it.

  2. This film is demented, inspired lunacy at its finest. And also emotionally scarring for anyone who grew up watching THE MUPPETS. PJ's other early film, BAD TASTE is also excellent if only for the scene where a sheep gets blown up with a rocket launcher!

    Both films have tons of insanely quotable dialogue and watching FEEBLES again makes me wistful that Jackson would go back to doing these kinds of films again but sadly he probably never will now that he's got tons of $$$ and Weta to dream up loads of CGI worlds. There's something charming about the low-tech vibe/ingenuity of FEEBLES that is missing from his later work.

  3. along with Man Bites Dog, Meet the Feebles is one of those films I saw in the 90s and was so mind blowing that I am not sure that I could watch it again.

  4. I have a friend who is obsessed with those freaking Rings movies. She's also the biggest prude I've ever met--she won't let her kid watch such innocuous fare as Spongebob because of all the "bad language." (HUH??) Anyway, I thought about her when I read this review and its description of the "fudge-packing fox"--ahhahahhaha--interspecies kitty/walrus sex, and druggie frogs.

    Dude, we are NEVER going to get caught up on Jeopardys! :? The other half is drumming to the Bee Gees right now.

  5. @Myra: Muppets + Peter Jackson = dirty zaniness

    Who would have thought it to be so?

    @J.D.: I'm surprised no sheep were blown up in Meet the Feebles. Actually, come to think of it, I think MTF is completely sheep-free. I guess PJ and the gang didn't want to repeat themselves.

    Weta is a "Visual effects company based in Wellington, New Zealand."

    I wonder what they made the bunny puss out of. I wonder.

    @Iren: I've always wanted to see Man Bites Dog.

    @Karim Amir: I can't believe I saw all three of "those freaking Rings movies" in theatres.

    C'mon, man. Let the kid watch the talking sponge.

    I'm still trying to figure out how the kitty/walrus sex would work--you know, from an anatomical point of view.

    All the contestants on Jeopardy! this week seem to be wearing these colourful sweaters with capitalized writing on the front. Weird.

    I remember air drumming the Bee Gees' "Tragedy" when I was 6, and I turned out all right. *mild eye twitch*

    Oh, and I just hit 200 followers, yo! Sweet nectar!

  6. Such a warped movie, I loves it sooo.

  7. Whenever I read one of your posts, I'm either listening to Devo or imagining I am ("Snowball", mostly)... weird. Remembering MEET THE FEEBLES, I guess I don't hate Peter Jackson so much.

  8. I get the Devo thing--in that, they totally rule. It's the "Snowball" part I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around. ;)

  9. Some people call old friends when they've been drinking. I leave cryptic comments at my favorite blogs. "Snowball" is one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands. You are a pearl, Yum... and one of the very best. :)

  10. Thanks, Jerry. :)

    Oh, and I just listened to "Snowball." Cool song (no pun intended).