Every day Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a movie either so bad it’s good or just downright terrible. Today: Puppets gone wild.
When it was first announced that New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson would be directing the Lord of the Rings films for New Line Cinema, the world of fandom was divided between those who asked “who” and those who asked “are you freaking kidding me?”
Before Lord of the Rings, Jackson was primarily known for his low budget, disturbingly gruesome, yet oh so entertaining horror films. The very idea that the man who had brought you such films as Meet the Feebles would be chronicling the exploits of Frodo Baggins boggled the mind.
Meet the Feebles, Jackson’s second flick, is a bizarre spoof of The Muppet Show. Before Matt Stone and Trey Parker were utilizing puppets for acts of debauchery, Jackson was filming the antics of the Feeble Variety Hour.
From an elephant facing a paternity suit served by his baby mamma (who just happens to be a chicken) to a rabbit coping with AIDS to a fly journalist who chases scoops between his lunchroom breaks at the nearest toilet stall, the plot of Meet the Feebles reads like a dirty joke told between pre-teen boys on the playground.
Besides holding its share of depravity, Feebles also contains grossly exaggerated caricatures — each bursting with undeniably human traits and flaws stuffed inside the cutest little animals this side of Jim Henson’s workshop.
In a world ruled by anthropomorphic animals, the cast of the Feeble Variety Hour is hard at work preparing for their first live television broadcast. In-between dance rehearsals and song numbers, the menagerie of puppeted critters blow off steam in a variety of acts including robbery, binge drinking, drug abuse, infidelity and murder.
Heidi the Hippo suppresses the fact that her husband, Bletch the Walrus, is unfaithful by stuffing her face with the finest of chocolate delights – one cake at a time. Robert the Hedgehog falls in love with a beautiful poodle named Lucy but becomes despondent when he walks in on her seemingly making love to Trevor the Rat. What he doesn’t know is that Trevor had drugged the lovely Lucy and was testing her out as the newest star of his homemade pornographic film. Wynyard the Frog fought hard in Veitnam but one cowardly moment turned him to drugs. It’s too bad he doesn’t have enough money for his next fix. It’s even worse for the assistants in Wynyard’s throwing knife act.
The film is indeed quite foul. Yet, despite all the song and dance numbers expressing a love for sodomy, the film’s filth never becomes distractingly dirty.
The motivations and failings of the characters are very much human. Audiences will find themselves ignoring the fact that what they are watching is a mixture of puppets and people in costumes and instead find themselves engrossed in the stories of these flawed performers each spiraling down their personal path to a private hell.
While the puppetry is nothing to bark about, Jackson and his crew did do an impressive job at creating faces with enough characterization to make the animals’ motivation believable. The songs are very lovely in an end of ‘80s/early ‘90s kind of way.
While the film never becomes exceedingly laugh out loud funny, it remains a clever satire of the entertainment industry and an exploration into the age-old comedy rule: a puppet doing dirty things is always funny.
At one point in the movie, Louie the Fish desperately wishes to join the Feeble chorus. A chance encounter with Bletch the Walrus gives Louie his opportunity to audition for a spot. Bletch interrupts Louie’s musical number with complaints of a cavity deep inside his mouth. Louie offers to take a look inside at Bletch’s teeth and is promptly swallowed by the hungry Walrus. Later during a golf game, Bletch vomits all over his golf buddy. Lying amidst the upchucked food is a half-digested fish. “Did I get the part,” Louie asks before expiring.
You may not have gotten the role you wanted Louie, but you were certainly the most memorable character in this very-memorable cult classic.
Robert Saucedo doesn’t trust puppets — or anything else that has a hand stuck up its ass. Follow him on Twitter @robsaucedo2500.
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.