Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 1980
Directed by
Robert Altman
114 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars


Robert Altman’s musical comedy, penned by Village Voice writer, Jules Feiffer, and based on E. C. Segar’s long-running comic strip character is reminiscent of Alan Paker’s Bugsy Malone (1976), a gangster musical with an all-child cast, both seeming to set out to be high-spirited romps with a frisson of the surreal. Neither filmed worked but if Parker’s attempt managed to be inoffensively tolerable Popeye, filmed on a large and expensive Heath Robinson set which was purpose built on the island of Malta, is so completely unfunny as to leave one aghast.  \

The film keeps to the rather off-kilter conceptual style of the cartoon (of which probably few people under the age of 60 today would have any recollection) and hybridizes it with silent film era pratfalls and slapstick stunts. If the latter is your idea of comedy, this may please but the rudimentary story, two-dimensional characters and mind-numbingly repeated jokes make this seem a dull affair, stretching what might have been mildly amusing in the cartoon strip format into a long-winded bore that is not improved by Harry Nilsson’s suitably offbeat songs or Feiffer's occasional moments of wit.

On the upside, Robin Williams, in his debut film appearance (Dustin Hoffman originally had the part but quit), has yet to develop his stock character and makes for a good Popeye whilst, needless to say, Shelley Duvall is marvellous as Olive Oyl (a part originally to be played by Lily Tomlin).




Want something different?

random vintage best worst