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  Meet the Feebles Putrid Puppet Palaver
Year: 1989
Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Donna Akersten, Stuart Devenie, Mark Hadlow, Ross Jolly, Brian Sergent, Peter Vere-Jones, Mark Wright, Danny Mulheron
Genre: Comedy, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: "Meet the Feebles! Meet the Feebles!" they sing, the new variety sensation that hopes to have their show transmitted to an audience of millions tonight, and if all goes well, maybe a chance at syndication. But behind the glitter and sparkle, there is a more sordid tale, as you can see if you happened to be eavesdropping on the rehearsals and the star of show, Heidi the Hippo (voiced by Danny Mulheron), is halfway through her song when she is interrupted by a rude remark from Trevor the Rat (Brian Sergent). Heidi can be temperamental, but does she deserve what's coming to her?

This was director Peter Jackson's second film after Bad Taste, only this could just as easily have been called that as well, as if anything Jackson and his team of cohorts went all out to be even more offensive. The result is a film that even his staunchest fans have trouble defending, as no subject was considered taboo for the puppets to act out here, not to mention the fact that they seemed to be sending up that beloved entertainment institution The Muppets, with some characters evidently based upon the Jim Henson creations, although not so much that they could be sued; only Heidi the Hippo was an obvious take-off (of Miss Piggy).

The narrative could best be described as busy, as if the filmmakers got so carried away with crafting their cast - which was not just puppets, but actors in suits as well - that they ended up with loads of them, and felt the need to include every one whether they were necessary or not. As long as they could think up a sick joke for them, they were in. In its way, just as The Muppet Show was a spoof of those backstage musicals such as 42nd Street or Kiss Me Kate, The Feebles did the same, complete with songs and dances, although on subjects that would not be advisable for a genuine television special.

Well, there was Garden of Love, but even the staging of that ends in slapstick disaster: the humour was nothing if not broad. Among those characters are the owner of the production, Bletch the Walrus (Peter Vere-Jones), who the now over the hill Heidi thinks is in love with her but is actually having an affair with Samantha the Cat (Donna Akersten), the hippo's rival. Bletch, for no good plot reason, is involved with cocaine deals (one supposes they had to use that giant spider once they had built it), but that's not all as there are pornographic films being shot behind the scenes too, more opportunities for dubious gags. Yet while most of those we see verge on the reprehensible, there are some decent folks there.

Our hero, presumably, is Wobert - sorry, Robert the Hedgehog (Mark Hadlow) who turns up hoping for a break in showbiz, an innocent in the face of all this depravity who nevertheless finds love with a chorus girl, except that romance is placed in jeopardy by the surroundings. It's as if Jackson and his writers were so disgusted by the entertainment industry that they had some kind of violent reaction to it, and The Feebles was the result as any kind of bodily fluid sprays over the scenery and the puppets get up to all sorts of wallowing in their own filth. With a 'Nam flashback for a drug-addicted frog (is he meant to sound like Al Pacino or Christopher Lloyd?), a shit-eating fly reporter digging the dirt, and a cute bunny rabbit who ends up with a deadly sexually transmitted disease, you might not like what you see, yet there was a dedication to being so disgusting that almost made this heroic. Oh, and there were a few laughs, against the odds and assuming your stomach could take it.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Peter Jackson  (1961 - )

Hugely talented New Zealand director best known today for his Lord of the Rings adaptations. Started out making inventive, entertaining gore comedies like Bad Taste and Braindead, while his adult Muppet-spoof Meet the Feebles was a true one-off. Jackson's powerful murder drama Heavenly Creatures was his breakthrough as a more 'serious' filmmaker, and if horror comedy The Frighteners was a bit of a disappoinment, then his epic The Lord Of The Rings trilogy - Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King were often breathtaking interpretations of Tolkien's books. 2005's blockbuster King Kong saw Jackson finally realise his dream of updating his all-time favourite film, but literary adaptation The Lovely Bones won him little respect. In 2012 he returned to Middle Earth with the three-part epic The Hobbit and in 2018 directed acclaimed WWI doc They Shall Not Grow Old.

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