Movie Review: Popeye

Even before Robin Williams’ death, I had put Popeye into my Netflix queue. I’d seen it once before (a long time ago), and I wanted to know if my memories of it were accurate. From what I recalled, it was a bizarre musical, but it was directed by Robert Altman, so I wanted to give it another shot.

What did I think?

It’s a bizarre musical, pretty much exactly as I remembered it.

There are some good things to it. The set design was great, and I appreciated the way they tried to make the whole thing feel very cartoony and true to the source material, but then again, you also have to take a look at the source material and ask yourself if it can support a full-length musical.

No, my friends. That’s not really the stuff that awesome movies are made of. And the mistakes are much more plentiful than what Altman got right.

First off, in Williams’ movie debut, they shackled him with a squint, strange lines, and an accent so hard to understand he had to dub his lines over in post production. One of Williams’ strengths was how well he could improv–how he just could go off the walls and come up with the craziest things. Hard to do that when you have all this extra baggage around you.

And then there’s the music by Harry Nilsson. Every now and then they’re actually pleasant to listen to, but they slip in and out of discordance so often that it’s really hard to take a shine to them.

And then we have Shelley Duvall, who did perhaps the best version of Olive Oyl I could imagine anyone doing. You take the cartoon character and zap her into real life, and I’m pretty sure you’d end up with Shelley Duvall. And that’s not a good thing, folks. She was just so consistently annoying, and her singing voice . . . My ears are still bleeding.

In the end, it just never comes together the way it might have. Some of the pieces are there, but they just don’t add up to anything, which is a shame, because for all its flaws, it still had enough moments of watchability to keep me from stopping it. I didn’t *dis*like it (although this review may make it sound otherwise), but I certainly wasn’t mourning when it was over.


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