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Film Review: Meet the Feebles

Meet the Feebles (1989; Directed by Peter Jackson)

Meet the Feebles is a work of twisted, sick genius. Practically every possible act of depravity invented by man is depicted in this film, all of them performed by sometimes-adorable puppets who are fitfully collaborating on a televised spectacular that they hope will save the theatre that employs and houses them all (and if some choice renumeration was re-routed their way for their troubles, that wouldn’t be taken amiss, either). Such content could be utterly nasty and off-putting, but future Oscar-winning blockbuster director Peter Jackson strikes a gleeful tone of juvenile delinquency that saves from the film from its own virulent vileness. That Jackson found a way to mention this thoroughly debauched film in his Best Picture acceptance speech ensured that, whatever cinematic and coporate excesses he allowed himself to fall prey to subsequently, the shaggy filmmaker from New Zealand would forever be a mischievous creative iconoclast at heart.

Again and again, be it with sex, drugs, bloody violence, pornography, scatology, foul language, Vietnam flashbacks (including theoretical discussions of Marxism by the Viet Cong), or (most hilariously) a lavish production number for a song about sodomy, Jackson repeatedly seems to be getting away with something with Feebles. Once (if?) you reach the end credits and it becomes apparent that the film was partly paid for by the New Zealand government’s cultural commission, it becomes all that much more apparent that he really did get away with a whole lot.

Whatever else you can say about this joyfully disgusting film, it firmly establishes Jackson’s undeniable abilities as a mass manipulator of audience reactions. Just as he plays his viewers like so many violins in many key macro-moments in The Lord of the Rings and King Kong (I’m thinking particularly of the tantric build-ups to the Moria orc attack in The Fellowship of the Ring and Kong vs. the V-Rexes in Kong), he gets to you in more direct, icky, and even cynical ways in Meet the Feebles. Maybe the best thing to be said about this messy but entertaining indie-shock-cinema classic is that you cannot experience it impassively. You will react to this film, even if it isn’t in a positive manner. A young director cutting his teeth on the technical challenges of filmmaking and building up the experience that would eventually place him at the head of a production empire and atop Hollywood’s directorial A-list could do worse than to gain himself some skills and attention with a film of this sort.

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Categories: Film, Reviews

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