"Meet the Feebles" (1989) Review
Meet the Feebles is not a good movie.
That's worth putting right up front. It's practically the textbook definition of "film curiosity" though, checking all sorts of boxes that despite the film not being much good, makes it worth seeing at least once. It's an insane premise (checkbox one) rendered with a gleefully low budget execution (checkbox two) in the most disgusting way possible (checkbox three), all while being the work of a now incredibly famous director (checkbox four, and possibly the single biggest source of the film's attention).
In case you're not aware, Meet the Feebles is from New Zealand director Peter Jackson. Yes, Peter "Academy Award winning director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy" Jackson. It's the second film in his body of work, the first being Bad Taste, a film about aliens harvesting humans to supply meat to a fast food chain. In the hardcore film geek world, Peter Jackson is a bewildering figure because of his early filmography. Bad Taste was followed by Meet the Feebles, and Meet the Feebles was followed by Dead Alive (a.k.a. Brain Dead), a zombie extravaganza that was the goriest film ever made until the 2013 remake of Evil Dead. And the film that followed Dead Alive was... Heavenly Creatures, a true-crime fantasy drama based on the true story of girls who murdered one of their own mothers' in New Zealand. It was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.
The point is that Peter Jackson's ascension into becoming one of the most important blockbuster filmmakers at the turn of the millennium is baffling in the context of his early work, especially once you see Meet the Feebles. Some of his inventive camera work is in there, but nothing during the film's runtime even remotely suggests the legitimate filmmaking chops that would develop later in his career, let alone two movies from this one.
Meet the Feebles has a lot of plot for its roughly ninety-minute runtime, but almost all of it is in service of jokes. The overall plot is thin as they come and the film has less of a three-act structure and more of a vignette feel that makes the film feel a lot longer than it actually is. To condense though, "Meet the Feebles" is the name of a variety show television program in a world of creatures that all look like Muppets. A despicable walrus named Bletch is in charge of the whole operation as he double crosses lovers, stars of the show, and his own henchmen that are deeply involved in pornography and the illegal drug trade.
No, you didn't read any of that wrong, and the pornography bits aren't even the most disgusting parts of the movie. Between a heroin addicted frog who served in Vietnam to and rabbit who might have AIDS, the movie goes for the throat in terms of shock humor. It all looks gross, appearing to be shot on the cheapest, grimiest film stock in New Zealand. You will see an obese hippopotamus in lingerie. You will see the walrus getting a blowjob from a siamese cat. And the less said about a tabloid reporter that's a housefly, the better. It's so deeply unpleasant, so horrific, that it all almost becomes delirious to watch.
The reason I say "almost" is because this film is not for everyone. At all. Several of the jokes are truly despicable, and a few lean hard into racial stereotypes that feel at odds with damn near everything in the movie. But as an examination of a director's progression in his career, it's kind of a "must-watch" for film geeks. Some of Peter Jackson's signatures (extreme dutch angles, wiper shots, stark horror lighting) are on display and you can see the development of his visual language.
I'm going to refrain from naming a lot of the film's darkest gags (you kind of have to see the last ten minutes to believe it) just in case anyone who reads this decides to watch the movie, but you can't say I didn't warn you. Meet the Feebles is the film equivalent of descending into a crypt. There are historical reasons to descend into the crypt, you might even enjoy what's in the crypt, who knows. But it's not going to be for everyone, and it's going to be unpleasant no matter what.