Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Monday, January 28, 2008


POPEYE (1980). Director: Robert Altman.

Robert Altman probably wasn't the best choice to helm this live-action adaptation of the classic cartoons, although Popeye is by no means as dreadful as reputed. The trouble is simply that the film isn't well-edited and that the fun peters out long before the conclusion, with silliness and noisiness overtaking humor. Robin Williams isn't bad as Popeye, but Shelley Duvall really steals the show as Olive Oyl, and Wesley Ivan Hurt -- “Swee'pea” -- is one of the cutest babies in the movies. The first half of the picture as Popeye arrives in the fishing village of Sweethaven to find his Pappy is quite charming and entertaining. When Pappy (Ray Walston) shows up, however, we've got one Popeye too many. The climax with Popeye pursuing a captured Olive Oyl isn't well handled by Altman and is boring instead of exciting, although there is a nifty, bad-tempered octopus on hand. Jules Feiffer's screenplay is perfectly workable but gets bogged down in the latter half. However, the scenic design is excellent, and Nillson's songs are memorable, especially “Sweethaven” [despite the closing chords that remind one of Annie's “Tomorrow”] and “Everything is Food.” Paul L. Smith makes a nice Bluto and Roberta Maxwell scores as Nana Oyl. Despite its undeniable imperfections, there are a lot of good things in this movie, including the staging of “Everything is Food,” and it's all quite cute and clever.
Verdict: Fun if you're in a silly mood and don't expect too much. **1/2.

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