Directed by: Robert Altman
Starring: Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall, Ray Walston
Did you ever see those old insane Popeye cartoons and think to yourself, “boy, I wish this was a live-action movie?” Of course you didn’t, there is absolutely nothing about Popeye besides that insane cartooniness that’s interesting even in the slightest bit. Well, Robert Altman agrees with you, and that’s why he decided to keep all the cartoony action in the live-action movie he made! If that sounds complicated and pointless, then once again gentle reader, you are right on point. You’re pretty perceptive, are you going out with anybody?
Popeye, a sailor man– excuse me, THE sailor man, arrives in Sweethaven, a nice little port town ruled under the iron thumb of a huge mumbly guy named Bluto. Popeye gets a room with the Oyl family, who’s daughter, Olive, is engaged to Bluto even though she doesn’t want to be. One night, Popeye and Olive Oyl find a baby out on the pier and decide to take it home only to find out that it can predict the future. Of course Bluto kidnaps Swee’Pea, and then Popeye finds his estranged father, Poopdeck Pappy, and… he… fights. Poopdeck Pappy. What was I saying? Uh… the end. Poopdeck Pappy.
Okay, yes, the plot is complicated, but at least they kept the insane cartoony visuals (well, as close as you can approximate with 1980’s technology) and the incredibly annoying layered dialogue. Everybody is always speaking over each other, just like in the cartoon! And just like in the cartoon, you can’t fucking understand anyone, least of all Robin Williams and his half-assed Popeye impression. The only time you can make out any words are during the godawful musical numbers, and– oh, did I mention that it’s a musical, too? Still, all those small (well, medium-large) complaints aren’t what end up making Popeye the unwatchable garbage it is. What caps it all off is that Altman apparently has some sort of phobia of close-up shots, and thus the entire film is shot as far away from the characters as possible. This makes it harder to see which character talking is supposed to be the one you should pay attention to, it makes the visual effects look SIGNIFICANTLY worse than if you had just been restricted in your view just a little bit, and it gives the whole film a detached feeling, which really does not work well with the “family in peril” plot they have going. Shelley Duvall is the perfect casting for Olive Oyl, though, she really fucking nails that role.