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Okay, I'll get this out of the way first: MEET THE FEEBLES is like the Muppet Show on acid. Yes, that's the description that you'll find in anyone's review of this film, but the reason why the cliche is there is that nothing could be more true. This film, like the Muppets, is about a group of puppets that put on a variety show chock full of catchy musical numbers. However, unlike the Muppets, these guys have a seedy side behind the scenes that often interferes with their ability to perform.
More than that, though, MEET THE FEEBLES is one of the most strangely entertaining films I've ever had the opportunity to see. A few days ago when I put up my review of HEAVENLY CREATURES, I mentioned this film as one of the trio of films Peter Jackson made for New Zealand audiences before he cracked into the "Mainstream", if it can be called that. I've seen it a good handful of times, and it still manages to impress me. It's a formula that you just have to assume disaster with here: tell a story using an ensemble cast of puppets, actually give it a plot, and keep it entertaining for an hour and a half. Somehow, Jackson pulled it off.
Here's the breakdown: The Feebles are a group of animals that have their own musical variety show. Not just any animals, mind you, but drug-addicted, promiscuous, mud-slinging animals, who don't mind cross-pollinating (Bletch the Walrus is splitting time with Heidi the Hippo and Samantha the Siamese Cat). Rather than try to fill in some of the holes, I think it's best to just decribe some of the colorful characters we meet in this fine film:
Wobert: Okay, it's Robert, but it's never pronounced that way. Robert is a hedgehog who joins the cast right before all hell starts breaking loose. He's shy, unassuming, and naive, and will do anything for the love of his life, the lovely poodle Lucille.
Lucille: The apple of Robert's eye, Lucille is also brand new to the cast of the Feebles. She's pure and innocent, although Trevor the Rat would like to see her purity thrown out for his own personal gain.
Heidi: She's an old hippo, who just happens to be the star of the show. She's basically a more neurotic brunette version of Miss Piggy, who has been in love with the show's producer Bletch since he discovered her at the tender age of sixteen.
Bletch: The producer of the show, who is involved in shady drug deals and is cheating on Heidi with slinky vixen Samantha. Bletch is brash and uncouth, but still has the show's interests in mind at all times.
Arfur: The show's stage manager, Arfur is a rather jovial old worm who appears to have a heart of gold. He's sympathetic to Robert and is the one character everyone seems to look up to, even if he is always at their feet.
Samantha: Bletch's mistress, Samantha is a sleazy siamese cat who hates Heidi with all her heart. She talks in a Southern Belle accent and appears to be quite a bit of a nymphomaniac.
Sebastian: The show's producer, who is a very high-strung fox. Sebastian has little patience with his players, and also seems to have a penchant for buggery, as evidenced by his trademark musical number.
Trevor: Trevor is a sleazy rat who dresses like a Nazi officer and talks like Peter Lorre. He seems to be a right-hand man for Bletch, but seems more interested in filming underground pornography than anything else.
Sid: One of the players in the Feebles cast, Sid is a big elephant who seems to be a bit worrisome. He's in parental dispute with his ex-lover, a chicken named Sandy.
Wynyard: Wynyard is the local knife-thrower, who also happens to be a heroin-addicted vietnam vet. Some of the oddest sequences in the film involve Wynyard's flashbacks to his days as a P.O.W. in Saigon.
Harry: Harry the rabbit is basically Bugs Bunny with a sex addiction. One day he starts feeling a little woozy, and starts wondering if his sexual exploits have caused him to contract "the big one".
Of course, there are several more characters who aren't quite as developed, including a cow who's into BDSM, a bulldog who plays golf with Bletch, and a fly who likes to write sleazy tabloid articles about the Feebles.
MEET THE FEEBLES is about as disturbing a film as you're gonna find. Body fluids, curse words, and grotesque imagery abound. Just the simple thought of a frog shooting up in the bathroom or a cow with pierced udders in a leather bustier is sure to conjure up some disturbing images, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Basically, this is stuff even John Waters and "Monty Python" haven't even had the nerve to try. Every act of depravity you can imagine is pretty well touched upon in the course of this movie. And it's bloody brilliant. Once again, the beauty here is that not only is there all kinds of bizarre shit going on here, but there's also a story being told. A story of romance between our heroes Robert and Lucille. A story of betrayal with Heidi and Bletch. A story of affliction for every character in the film. Yeah, it's actually a lot deeper than it needs to be, which actually is its biggest flaw. Sometimes the setup for some of the outrageousness winds up distracting us for what we're really there to see.
And the songs...oh, how I love the songs. The Feebles produce a number of musical numbers that rival the finest pieces Kermit and the gang ever came up with. There's the show's opening theme, where the Feebles insist in verse the obvious: that they're "not your average ordinary people." There's of course Heidi's trademark song, the eerily romantic "Garden of Love." And my personal favorite, the bluesy number that the Rastafarian bandleader croons along with his chorus of poodles, the catchy "One Leg Missing." I'm purposely leaving off the desperation piece Sebastian sings so as not to spoil it for you, but it's quite the comedic bit. If I had my wish, Jackson would snatch all of the musical numbers off the master tapes and release them as a soundtrack, but I'm sure that's nothing but a pipe dream.
I love The Feebles. Like I said, repeat viewings of this movie have endeared it to me. You might feel the opposite, but I guarantee you're not going to be indifferent about it. This is a love-it-or-hate-it thing. But if you ever really want to kick back and enjoy a unique moviewatching experience, then FEEBLES has you covered.
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