It’s that time again, where I watch the entire filmography of the director of the film I’ve been assigned for Cinema 52. Unlike Tony Scott or Robert Zemeckis, however, the director of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring can’t seem to ever release just one cut of his films. So, not only am I cramming twelve movies into one exhausting weekend, but specifically the longest available version of each film. That’s right, it’s not just the complete Peter Jackson… it’s COMPLETER JACKSON. Let’s do this.
MEET THE FEEBLES (1989)
IS THIS A PAINFULLY LONG PETER? It flies right by at 94 minutes without a single alternate cut.
It’s the Muppets but with dark, realistic showbiz problems. I know fans of this flick would probably hate me summing up this high concept story with the actual high concept that you know it must have been pitched as, but since I completely fucking hated it, here’s a better description: puppets do stuff that puppets don’t do, now laugh, because puppets!
Hey, puppets don’t do fetish porn! Ha?
I’m not being a prude here, as I’m all for the filthy puppet sex in Team America: World Police, but when the only joke is “this never happens to the Muppets,” it gets old after about three minutes. Every scene of this film is like a dumb conversation you’ve had with your friends about Kermit the Frog’s dick, and there’s a reason dumb things your friends say don’t become feature-length films. Even a Family Guy cutaway gag may be too much screen time for anything that happens in this movie.
Hey, puppets don’t go through heroin withdrawals! Ha?
Yes, it actually has a plot, but if you made a list of anthropomorphic animals and awful situations and paired them up, there’s the script. An elephant with an illegitimate child? Yup. A hippo that stress-eats away the pain of being cheated on? Okay. A rabbit with AIDS? Fart.
Hey, puppets don’t–eh, fuck this.
The movie’s tone is fairly melodramatic, and I get why. They’re playing off the idea that the straighter Leslie Nielsen plays his character in a spoof, the funnier it is. However, the reason that works on Police Squad! is because a hilarious joke is happening at the same time Frank Drebin is being completely serious. In Meet the Feebles, the joke is missing.
Unless you find struggling to keep a relationship alive a real hoot.
I kept thinking the same thing repeatedly during this movie: if you replaced the puppets with real humans, this wouldn’t be a comedy. It’d be your standard seedy showbiz soap opera, and not even a good one at that. It’s just one “the show must go on” cliché after another, and the dramatic style, for me, highlighted that staleness instead of mocking it.
How will they ever… *yawn* …pull this off?
And now comes the part where I’m supposed to be an asshole for crapping on all this hard work.
Wow, look at… all that.
Welp, the fact that The Fellowship of the Ring was a pain in the ass to make doesn’t change the fact that it bores me to death, and that’s the same case here. Yes, all the crazy puppetry looks great and must have taken a hell of a lot of planning and practice, but to modify a quote from Dr. Ian Malcolm, they were so preoccupied with whether they could bring an AIDS-riddled vomiting rabbit to life that they didn’t stop to think if they should bring an AIDS-riddled vomiting rabbit to life.
So, yes, the puppets are really damn impressive and are an important item on Peter Jackson’s filmmaking résumé. Moving on.
I wish the shock and tastelessness offended me more than the lack of story or interesting characters. And yet, while I thoroughly disliked Meet the Feebles, I’m glad it exists. It at least shows that Peter Jackson was open to trying something different after his breakout smash Bad Taste, and range is important to a filmmaker just starting out. Part of experimentation is willing to fail, and for me, Peter failed spectacularly. This really is the kind of movie you have to go ahead and make before you can see that it just doesn’t work.
UP NEXT: Braindead (1992)