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Puppets with private parts

By Diane Peters

“The producers wish to advise that no puppets were killed or maimed during the production of this film,” is the highly prominent disclaimer on Peter Jackson’s “Meet the Feebles.”

It’s a ploy to induce snorts from the audience, no doubt. In this full-length film all the characters are puppets who inflict and experience all manners of sex, violence, urine, feces, drool, maiming and death.

A far cry from The Muppet Movie, this is not a movie for children, but one of the most violent and disgusting things you’ll ever see. You’d think puppet gore wouldn’t be gross, but it is.

The film was an independent project of Peter Jackson and friends. He started it before his critically acclaimed Heavenly Creatures, which also involved puppets. Meet the Feebles lacks its subtlety and character depth, but matches it for shock value and surpasses it in weirdness.

The movie is about the animal puppets that put on the Feebles Variety Show. The producer, Bletch is a seedy, cheating, drug-buying walrus with a very large gun collection. His assistant, Trevor the Rat makes porn films on the side. All of this is put into context by Robert the Hedgehog, the only good and honest character in the film. The array of characters and their various illegal, sexual and drug-related vices are always amusing and disturbing, but never too far from predictable. Thanks to a low budget, the film is not at all visually stunning. But what it lacks in lighting and cinematography, it makes up for in with a wide array of clever, tacky and over-the-top props and sets.

What keeps all the puppets their disgusting ways and their messy backstage world together is a twisted, fast-moving plot and the biting parody of previous puppet worlds. We see what The Muppet Show would really be like backstage. And Jackson gives us puppets with real, albeit exaggerated, pasts and vices. Also answered is that age-old question. What does a puppet cross-breed look like? The half chicken, half elephant baby in the movie, is very strange looking indeed.

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