Grindhouse Review: 'Meet the Feebles'
Meet the Feebles (1989)
Directed By Peter Jackson
Danny Mulheron, Donna Akersten, Stuart Devenie, Mark Hadlow, Brian Sergent, Peter Vere-Jones and Mark Wright
Welcome to “Meet The Feebles Variety Hour,” the hottest new show on a leading cable network. Today’s line up consists of love, drug dealing/addiction, extortion, robbery, disease and even murder. What will unfold on America’s No.1 show? Stay tuned…we’ll be right back after a few short words from our sponsors.
From writer/director Peter Jackson, the mastermind behind the Academy Award-winning adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy comes his third attempt at feature filmmaking with his wildly crude, raunchy and exploitative take on “The Muppet Show.”
“Meet the Feebles! Meet the Feebles! We’re not your average, ordinary people!” After a brief and overdramatic opening from the show’s announcer, the cast of the hottest variety hour in town bursts into song with the “Feebles” opening theme. To the normal eye, it looks like the introduction to a kid’s show that seems like it would be part of another glorious afternoon in front of the television set with cookies and milk while Mom cleans the house.
All seems well until the stage manager, Trevor the Rat (Sergent), yells “Stop” off stage and then proceeds to rip everyone a new…well, you know. After the five-minute mark, you already get the sense this film is not for children or the faint of heart. We start off listening to an upbeat musical number that opens up the film, and are rudely interrupted by a filthy little rat that has a foul mouth and no heart. Sounds like another typical day at the office.
After Trevor leaves the stage, the show’s director, Sebastian the Fox (Hadlow), calls a break for a half hour to regroup, and the crew departs to the backstage area where we’re introduced to the lead and supporting cast.
Let’s introduce them: We have Heidi the Hippo, Robert the Hedgehog, Barry the Bulldog (Hadlow), Samantha the Cat, (Akersten), Dr. Quack, Daisy the Cow, Sandy the Chicken (Devenie), Wynyard the Frog, The Fly (Sergent), Bletch, Arfur the Worm (Jones), Sid the Elephant and Louie the Fish (Wright). Theses are a few of the main characters who carry this twisted story full steam ahead.
Heidi, the star of the “Variety Hour,” discovers her lover, Bletch the Walrus (who is also the show’s producer), is cheating on her with Samantha the Cat. Meanwhile, the entire world is waiting for the show’s assorted co-stars to contend with their own problems.
These include drug addiction, extortion, robbery, disease, drug dealing and even murder.
While this is happening, the love relationship between Robert and Lucille is threatened by Trevor the Rat, who wishes to exploit the young starlet for use in his porno movie business. These are just a few of the side plots that happen within this mosaic take on what goes on behind closed doors with the celebrities that we come to adore, love or even hate.
Out of all the films that I’ve seen based on this subject matter, this happens to be the most tame and subtle approach to the dark and gritty study on the entertainment industry that we know today. We’ve all read the tabloids about who’s cheating on whom, who is having whose baby and every other thing that starts gossip around the campfire.
Here we have the same approach and context, but it’s done in a more intelligent and entreating approach through stereotypes and the melding of characters based on their personality (the characters’ type of animal matches their personality). We have a heroin-addicted frog, an over-sexed rabbit, a hippo with low self-esteem (and a short fuse), a cow and insect porn filmmaking duo, a sleazy fly tabloid reporter and a lovable and friendly hedgehog.
To make my point thoroughly clear, without breaking down each character, I’ll shift my focus to my personal favorite: The two-faced producer, Bletch the Walrus. After Heidi discovers that Bletch is having an affair with Samantha the Cat, Heidi runs back to her dressing room and proceeds to cry her eyes out, threatening not to do the show.
Shortly after, Bletch enters and proceeds to use his charming, yet sleazeball charisma to get Heidi to change her mind. She falls for his performance and thinks that their love is pure as rain. But when Bletch fires her after the curtain has dropped, Heidi sees Bletch for who he really is—a typical scumbag producer that will do what he wants to a young star to get his way in the end.
Jackson is actually commenting on how manipulating the entertainment industry can be when it comes to personalities like Bletch, who have the power to do what they want while also making a few other comments on some of the other performers as they come face-to-face with their hardships.
I think if this were an actual portrayal of humans being so despicable toward each other, the film wouldn’t have had its unique effect on the realistic subject matter, which makes you laugh rather than be appalled. However, there are some moments that make you second-guess yourself and wonder, “What the hell am I watching?”
Besides its sickly nature and extremely naughty approach to human behavior behind closed doors, “Meet the Feebles” is a gleefully twisted comedy that is often shocking and strangely endearing at the same time. I will say that this film is not for everyone, but if you have an eye for hidden context and you are able to read between the lines, you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
Three 1/2 out of Four Stars