Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



Saw a copy of this at Goodwill for $2.99. Thought, written by Jules Feiffer, directed by Robert Altman, starring Robin Williams. Could it possibly be as bad as I remembered?

Well … yes. That bad. And it’s funny, because the individual elements are very, very good, with two exceptions. The songs, by Harry Nilsson, almost universally suck. (I did think “Large,” which Shelley Duvall sang about Bluto, was funny.) I mean, they are, really, really, really a waste of your time. None of them are funny, none of them were catchy. They just sort of sat there, an indigestible lump. And … the script is lousy. A lot of the dialogue is good, but the plot is poor, and really goes nowhere.

And again, except for that, most of the individual pieces were good. Shelly Duvall was literally born to play Olive Oyl (she has said that kids called her that in school), and she knocks it out of the park. Her costume, her voice, her crazy way of speaking, they are all directly from the Thimble Theater cartoons. Robin Williams as the sailor man looks great, and sounds great, and has a wonderful way with Popeye’s unique way of pronouncing things. The production design is stunning. They created Sweethaven on Malta, and it was so elaborate, with nineteen buildings, that it was maintained and is now a tourist attraction. They bought real boats and sunk them in the harbor. They built a studio for Nilsson to write his shitty songs in. And they made a real effort to make it look like a live-action version of the knockabout Popeye cartoons during the golden Fleischer era. A lot of ingenious stuff made it look pretty good, and real.

And the pieces just don’t fit together. It’s like they are all from different puzzles. You know what? I think this is a rare case where a remake might actually be a good idea. Jeez, we spend billions every year making comic book movies about superheroes. Who is a better superhero than Popeye? Disney seems to have set out to remake all their classic animated films in live action. Why not remake this live action film in live action? The SFX are certainly up for anything these days. They could bring in a lot more Thimble Theater characters, like the Sea Hag, Eugene the Jeep, and Alice the Goon.