peter jackson “Ha! Fooled ‘em again!”
Meet the Feebles
dir. Jackson
Opens Fri April 15
Clinton St. Theater

It's fairly mind-blowing--even now, after billions of dollars and 17 Oscars--that New Line Cinema would allow Peter Jackson to make an expensive, ambitious trilogy of fantasy films in his native New Zealand. Even knowing how commercially and critically successful The Lord of the Rings movies became, it's still just ridiculous--they gave it to Peter Jackson. They trusted Peter Jackson.

To viewers familiar only with Rings, it's hard to imagine that any studio would be apprehensive about having Jackson make them. Those are the people who need to see Meet the Feebles.

One of Jackson's earliest, Feebles follows a group of puppets putting on a variety show. But Jackson infuses it with demented giddiness: The rabbit MC has VD. The walrus manager receives blowjobs from a pussycat. The knife-throwing frog is a 'Nam vet who needs a junk fix. Jackson's content to let this one joke--Muppets doing things they aren't supposed to--serve as the backbone for the entire film, and there's a certain charm in the amoral humor. Then again, that charm wears out quickly, and the film begins to grate after about 10 minutes.

Jackson would later find far more success with the gross-out hilarity of Dead Alive, give drama a try with Heavenly Creatures, and have a bona-fide American flop, The Frighteners. Though Feebles might be the worst of Jackson's films, it's distinctly Jackson's--you can feel the dynamically brilliant, manically inventive, and gleeful Jackson having a great time making Feebles, but unlike with Dead Alive or Rings, that feeling's not contagious.

Thanks to Rings, expectations are already sky-high for Jackson's next (a remake of 1933's King Kong), and Jackson's in the enviable position of being able to do whatever he wants. But to watch Feebles, it's all one can think: They gave it to Peter Jackson. They trusted Peter Jackson.