Peter Jackson's second feature is made, appropriately enough, from grant money left over from "Bad Taste" (1987), itself a monument to cinematic excess. It has been described as 'the Muppets on crack', a fair assessment.
The characters - all animatronic puppet animals - are members of the Feeble Variety Chorus, a fifth-rate vaudeville troop. The Feebles are lurching towards a live television show which may lead to a syndicated TV series. New recruit Robert the hedgehog is in for an eye-opening experience as he learns the shocking truth about the Feebles.
The viewer is in for an eye-opener too. The Feebles drink, smoke, take drugs, bed each other and excrete. Characters include Blech, a gross and corrupt walrus with a sideline in pornography, and Heidi, the show's star, 300 plus pounds of love-hungry hippopotamus.
Song-and-dance numbers are interspersed with the Feeble's grotesque machinations as the film slides luridly towards its climax. The live show is, of course, a farcical disaster. The stage is set for a frantic denouement as downtrodden Heidi finally takes her place in the spotlight.
Obviously this is no ordinary cinematic experience. The first few minutes are spent in shocked admiration for the director's sheer nerve in bringing the Feebles, in all their scatological glory, to the screen. It then becomes apparent that Peter Jackson has succeeded, despite his very best endeavours, in making an engaging film with striking and (in some cases) likeable characters.
Attention to detail is admirable. Camerawork is praiseworthy and there are some genuinely poignant moments. A Vietnam flashback is surprisingly effective. Set-pieces abound, the most memorable being Sebastian the Fox's song-and-dance number in praise of 'sodomy'.
It could be argued that "Meet the Feebles" is a satirical take on the monster of showbusiness. It could equally be argued that the director's intention was simply to be as offensive as possible. With its wilful grotesquery and soap opera storyline this is novelty trash, but nevertheless succeeds in rising above itself. Potential viewers will either love or hate it.