Meet the Feebles is depraved. It's vulgar. It's juvenile. It's dark and it's violent. And it's pretty damn funny. Director Peter Jackson's second feature, Meet the Feebles lands smack-bang in the middle of his trio of splatter comedies and it's pretty nasty. After aliens in Bad Taste and before zombies in Braindead, the only thing that makes sense right in the middle is obviously crazy puppets. And boy if these puppets aren't mad as all hell.
I suppose at its face value you could call Meet the Feebles a satire on the Muppets. Only instead of the usual giddy personalities and pop-culture references, think sex, drugs, violence and soap opera melodrama. Feebles is set the day before the live televising of the aptly named 'Feebles Variety Hour'. There's tension all round with love triangles, drug addictions and STD scares and the ensemble cast are a little on edge with each other and aren't doing well rehearsing for the big show. This plot is more of a driving force behind what is really just a series of vignettes with mutual characters.
And what a selection of vignettes. The antics these eclectic puppets get up to are nothing short of well, adult. We have the troubled Heidi the hippo star of the troupe who is on the brink of a breakdown, with her husband, Bletch the walrus the producer of the show cheating on her with a dancer; Trevor the rat is trying to make a business dealing drugs and making pornographic films with the cast; Harry the rabbit is dealing with a possibly fatal STD scare and publicity scandal at the hands of a paparazzo fly; Wynyard the frog a Vietnam veteran is having major trouble with his knife-throwing routine accidentally killing a cast member while dealing with his many drug addictions; and Robert the hedgehog the newest member of the troupe is trying to win over the girl of his dreams, Lucille the dog. It's all very 'The Young and the Restless' until you peel away the grimy the lid and find puddles of blood, faeces and semen. Things get dark very fast here, and it isn't long until the sex and poo jokes start pouring in.
But that's by no means a bad thing. The crass vulgarity on display here is top-notch and it's sure to produce at least one belly-laugh during a viewing with someone of bad taste and immature mind, which is a praise not often given to vulgar 'satires' of today such as the Scary Movie series or Vampires Suck. There's charm here. The puppets are colourful and lively which contrasts perfectly with the dark, real-world set design and grimy, low-budget shot-on-video look. Not to mention the very Jackson-esque, Raimi-inspired splatstick comedy mixed with gross-out violence and visual gags, with extremely vulgar dialogue and depravity to top it all off. It all works to create this gleeful 'can't-look-away' disgusted feeling which was a trademark of Jackson's aforementioned early splatter movies.
The finale is also very reminiscent of the director's early gems, and the clear highlight of the movie. Things ramp up so fast that you barely know how it all got so crazy. Something snaps in one of the characters and they go on a machinegun massacre of the cast and crew and things get very violent, very quickly. Puppets get torn apart in brilliant explosions of blood and gore to the backing of a rather distasteful musical number and everything just works. The puppets, the gore, the pus, the music vulgar perfection.
Meet the Feebles is not for everyone and it's certainly not for kids. However, if the prospect of animal puppets committing acts of murder and adultery while doing lines of cocaine sounds hilarious to you, then this is definitely your movie. It's brilliantly dark and vile while playing itself for laughs and it's damn funny. While not my personal favourite Jackson splatstick (try Braindead), Meet the Feebles is still hilarious and sickening all at the same time, and it's quite possibly the greatest movie involving deranged puppets there is.