Popeye (1980)

DVD Cover (Paramount)
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Ranked #2,541
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Connections: Popeye

Buff sailor man Popeye arrives in an awkward seaside town called Sweethaven. There he meets Wimpy, a hamburger-loving man; Olive Oyl, the soon-to-be love of his life; and Bluto, a huge, mean pirate who is out to make Sweethaven pay for no good reason. Popeye also discovers his long-lost Pappy in the middle of it all, so with a band of his new friends, Popeye heads off to stop Bluto, and he's got the power of spinach, which Popeye detests, to bust Bluto right in the mush. Watch as Popeye mops the floor with punks in a burger joint, stops a greedy taxman, takes down a champion boxer, and even finds abandoned baby Swee'pea. He's strong to the finish 'cause he eats his spinach. --IMDb
Review by Chad
Added: August 18, 2007
Take a trip back in time to somewhere in mid-1980 and think about that spinach-eating sailor known as Popeye - what comes to mind? Well, let's see: Popeye the comic book sensation - that one is a given, considering that that's where he got his start at. Popeye the cartoon character? Sure; after all, he has been the centerpiece of a number of cartoon series, so again, that's an easy one. How about video games? Well, the inevitable game didn't come out until a couple of years after the release of this film, but that one wasn't too far out of the question considering the skyrocketing popularity of the video game market at the time. But... Popeye the musical? That would probably rank pretty far down in the list of things that would pop to my mind when thinking of the character, but back in 1980, that's exactly what Robert Altman came up with. And you know what? Even though it was considered a bomb by the critics, I loved it.

Naturally, the storyline for this outing centers around Popeye (Robin Williams in his debut film role) as he attempts to find his long-lost pappy (Ray Walston). His search eventually leads him to the small village of Sweethaven, and it's there that he meets all of the characters that we know and love: the lanky Olive Oyl (Shelley Duvall), the mean and hulking Bluto (Paul L. Smith), the hamburger-eating Wimpy (Paul Dooley), and of course, the infant Swee'pea (Robert Altman's grandson Wesley Ivan Hurt). Olive and Bluto are set to be married soon, but when Popeye rolls into town and the two - ahem - "have a baby" together, these plans change. Needless to say, Bluto is none too happy about losing his woman to this stranger in town, and this slowly leads up to a showdown between the two men with Olive and Swee'pea on the line. Oh, and did I mention that it's a musical?

This adaptation of the characters and stories is actually a pretty bizarre offering. For starters, there's that thing I mentioned above about Popeye starring in a musical: a musclebound sailor who eats spinach to power up while fighting an equally large sailor over the rights to an annoying woman and a psychic baby doesn't exactly sound like the sort of movie that would work well with the characters breaking into song and dance every other scene, but it worked. There are some musicals out there where the singing and dancing parts feel forced, as though the filmmakers simply inserted them in there in order to turn a "film" into a "musical", but this is not the case here. These scenes move the storyline along nicely, and in fact, the songs are pretty damned catchy.

So, that's pretty bizarre, but how about the fact that it's also not really aimed towards any particular group of people? You'd think that - given the subject matter - this would be heavily geared towards kids, and while that is true to an extent, there's a small amount of material here that probably wouldn't be suitable for most kids in today's politically-correct world. Of course, it's not really a movie made for adults either (even though this particular adult enjoyed it), and the resulting film feels like something that went back and forth a few times in regards to who it should have been made for. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a bizarre thing.

What really makes this film work, aside from the perfect sets and the catchy songs, are the characters found within. Each and every last one of the main characters (Popeye, Olive, Bluto, and Wimpy) look exactly like one would expect from their respective real-life versions, and the actors who play these roles do so to perfection. Robin Williams is absolutely perfect as the leading man here, and I truly believe that nobody else working then or now would be able to pull off this role as well as he did. Williams had the facial expressions, the body language, and yes, even the mumbling down to an art here, and this leads to a lot of scenes that are just damned fun to watch. Then we have Shelley Duvall, a woman who looks and sounds like she just stepped out of the pages of the original comic. The resemblance that this woman has to the cartoon character that she portrays is downright eerie, but that isn't the extent of her on screen presence; no, this woman actually plays the role perfectly, and she even manages to hold her own against Robin Williams (no easy task, I assure you). The rest of the supporting cast is just as well-rounded as our two leading characters, and everybody involved gets at least a couple of scenes to truly shine in.

Overall, Popeye is a quirky little film that is surprisingly fun to sit through. I truly don't understand why the critics hated it so much upon its release, and it's a damned shame that it now resides on a bare-bones disc in the Wal-Mart bargain bin. It's not a perfect movie, but it is a highly enjoyable one. 8/10.
bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 08/18/2007, 07:30 PM
Definitely the most unusual film Robert Altman ever did...and that is saying a lot. Pretty funny, with some nice moments. Robin Williams does quite a nice job with the role and the whole thing is just very amusing. Nothing amazing, but very watchable and enjoyable. 7/10.
Tristan #2: Tristan - added 08/18/2007, 11:10 PM
Bluto. He was in Pieces as the grounds keeper. That's about it. How's that for a tidbit?
Oh right, and this movie was awful.
QuietMan #3: QuietMan - added 08/26/2007, 12:25 PM
wow you gave this an 8/10. This movie isn't bad ur right it's just really really lame which i guess gives it some sort of entertainment value. 5/10
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