Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. USA, 1980. Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Productions. Screenplay by Jules Feiffer, based on characters created by E.C. Segar. Cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno. Produced by Robert Evans. Music by Harry Nilsson, Tom Pierson. Production Design by Wolf Kroeger. Costume Design by Scott Bushnell. Film Editing by John W. Holmes, David A. Simmons.
Robert Altman’s dedication to experimentation and open collaboration with his cast and crew are both the most impressive aspect of his artistry but also his great vulnerability: when he pulls it off it’s a wonder to behold, but when it doesn’t work it is barely worth sitting through. He tries his hand at the Hollywood musical in this abysmal adaptation of the popular comic character and cartoon figure. Played by an awkwardly miscast Robin Williams, Popeye lands upon the shore of a seaside town and takes up residence in a boarding house in which lives the delightful Olive Oyl (Shelley Duvall). He also befriends Swee’pea and makes an enemy of the nasty Bluto, all of it to the tune of a whole score of terrible songs by Harry Nilsson (one of them was saved some years ago by Paul Thomas Anderson, but otherwise they’re a washout). Altman’s naturalistic, improvised style is badly at odds with caricature figures and song and dance numbers; the whole thing is a shambles from the get-go and hardly bearable.