Monday, May 27, 2013

Movie Review: Popeye

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Casting; some background jokes early on
Cons: Story a mess; songs add nothing
The Bottom Line:
The cast looks very good
But the story is a mess
And the songs are worse

"You Idiot.  You Can't Inherit a Pipe."

So, a couple months back, a friend loaned me Popeye.  I looked at him strangely, but he swore that it had grown on him and actually wasn't that bad.  Since our tastes are pretty similar, I decided to give it a try.  Well, everyone has their off days because I really didn't enjoy this movie.

Our story opens on a dark and stormy night.  No, I'm not kidding.  But that's only for the opening credits.  By the time they are over, Popeye (Robin Williams) is pulling into the port of Sweethaven.  It seems friendly enough except toward new comers.

Eventually, Popeye finds a place to lodge with the Oyl family and meets the lovely Olive Oyl (Shelley Duvall).  Olive is about to become engaged for the fourth time to Bluto (Paul L. Smith).  Popeye is traveling in a quest to find the father who abandoned him when he was two, but what else might he find in this town?

I know next to nothing about Popeye, despite having the Atari 2600 version of the 80's video game, so I came to this movie with pretty much a clean slate.  I've got to admit I was impressed with the casting.  Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall absolutely look their iconic parts.  I know less about the other characters, although I did recognize a few names.  The actors were all great.  It was the material that let them down.

This movie isn't a story; it's a series of vignettes.  I think I would have been okay with that except for one small detail - it tried to pretend it was a story.  So here's this movie that really isn't moving things forward until suddenly things have really moved forward.  Take Olive Oyl, for instance.  She is all set to become engaged to Bluto again.  Okay, so she seems a little hesitant.  But suddenly she sneaks out of her house.  Where did that come from?  All the characters suffer from illogical actions much of the time.

Did I mention it is a musical?  Maybe it slipped my mind because the songs are mostly forgettable.  The melodies aren't catchy, the words are rather stupid, and the little bits of choreography they try aren't all that great.  Not to mention that Shelley Duvall's voice isn't all that great here.

In the first half of the movie, they stick in all kinds of running gags, mostly in the background.  Those where my favorite part of the film.  In the big group numbers near the beginning, there are some very funny moments.  And I loved the Tax Man who would tax every around him for everything.  (He'd probably tax me for mentioning him, then for putting in this parenthesis talking about him taxing me.)

Popeye is another case of looks great, but really doesn't live up to its potential.  With this cast, it should have been better than the mess it turned out to be.

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