Friday, 26 April 2013

Popeye (1980)

Robert Altman Punches You In The Face (And It Hurts)

Robert Altman seems to have a serious hatred towards his audience in order to put us through this. I cannot stand this film, and I hope you never watch it. I personally would have never seen this if it weren’t for a little project called Cinema Stripped Down. I beg you not to watch this film. I didn’t know pain could be so... painful.

Popeye is the story of a sailor, named Popeye, who one day arrives in a large peninsula filled with tax laws. As he settles in, we learn Popeye has come here in search of his long lost father. Our sailor decides to stay in a small house as a lodger. It is here he meets Olive Oyl, a woman who is in the process of marrying Captain Bluto (who as Olive Oyl would say “he’s large”). After discovering a baby lying on the road, Popeye and Olive Oyl decide to raise this child together. Bluto does not approve of this, and after a very short battle with Popeye, Bluto is faced with defeat. After this fight, Popeye discovers a knack of his own. He has biceps of thunder, and he enjoys engaging other men with biceps of thunder in boxing matches. Just as we think this whole boxing thing will have something to do with the film, it takes a turn and they discover their baby, who they named Sweet Pee, is psychic. After the child is used to win horse races somebody abducts the baby. Can Popeye save the child before it is too late? All I know, is that I couldn’t possibly care less.

Where do I start to inform you how utterly awful Popeye is? Let me start here, at the worst part: Shelley Duvall. I was never a fan of the women - but never did I think it was possible to hate her half as much as I do know. I am one of the few people who completely hate The Shining, and the main aspect of my hatred from that film was Shelley Duvall’s terrible acting. However, she was fabulously casted in Robert Altman’s 1977 masterpiece, 3 Women. The main point in Popeye to hate Shelley Duvall, was her singing (here is the worst example of it). Her high pitched voice manages to to crack several times during each musical number. She honestly sounds like a chipmunk having a seizure. However, usually if I were to see a chipmunk close to death, I would spring to my feet in order to provide as much assistance as possible. Yet, for some reason I have no desire whatsoever to assist this chipmunk. Shelley Duvall plays Olive Oyl, the love interest of Popeye, and the character itself was written annoyingly enough - but she takes it to a brand new level. Perhaps it is her terrible voice, her scrunched up face, or perhaps it was Shelley Duvall’s aggravating and dull acting that put me through such pain and agony, but it certainly was the worst part of the film.

Time to mention the greatest part of the film. Robin Williams’ performance as Popeye certainly had it’s ups and downs, which resulted in it being very average. To start, I had to watch the film with subtitles in order to understand what he was saying. Her Popeye voice stayed true to the cartoons I believe, but I feel very poorly for anyone who would have seen this in theatres (it would have been the biggest waste of money imaginable, anyway), because I know that I would have no idea what he was saying. The main argument for why this is actually is a good film (trust me, it is not) is because the film resembles very much the actual comics and cartoons. But Robin Williams’ Popeye looks nothing like the way he was originally depicted. However, Williams was not all bad. I was very much amused by his vocal ability. Unlike Shelley Duvall, Robin Williams has a decent voice that suits the style of the film.

Has a film ever been as annoying as Popeye? I will have to seriously consider that question. Let me give you a sample of the utter stupidity of this film (I’m going to go ahead and “spoil” the ending. But I have such hatred towards this film that I want you to keep reading to understand what you are not missing). In the end of the film Olive Oyl is stuck in a small barrel as Bluto proceeds to cackle with evil and hysterical laughter while searching for a treasure chest. Suddenly Popeye, his father and Sweet Pee run in and Popeye seriously yells out these exact words: “Even though you're bigger than me, you can't win, 'cause you're bad, and the good always wins over the bad.” That is honestly one of the worst lines of dialogue I could ever imagine. Bluto and Popeye proceed to have the worst fight scene I’ve ever seen choreographed, and then Popeye’s father throws him a can of spinach and says “POPEYE! EAT YOUR SPINACH!”. Popeye disputes this, and Bluto says something along the lines of “So... you hate spinach then...?”. He then breaks into hysterical laughter while shaking the can down Popeye’s throat. Then a much more muscular Popeye jumps out of the water and swings his fist at Bluto - sending him flying into a upward direction. Maybe it is just me, but that sounds like the opposite of a really good film.

I cannot stand what Altman did stylistical with this film. It takes place in a massive city which seems to be a four year old trying to re-create the artistic style of Dr. Seus. Everything is shown in clashing colours - except it seems as if they have all been faded, and therefore this effect is a direct failure. If there’s one thing that I learned from this film, it is that there’s a new definition for failure: Robert Altman’s Popeye.

Directed by Robert Altman,
Starring: Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall and Ray Walston
★½ /★★★★★

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