E.C. Segar created one of the comics' most enduring characters when he first drew "Popeye." The newspaper strip hero was the subject of a series of cartoons in the 1930s and 40s, and this film from director Robert Altman and scenarist Jules Feiffer adapts "Popeye" to feature length--a good
idea gone down the drain under Altman's spotty direction. Only in the last 50 minutes does POPEYE create some excitement. Popeye (Robin Williams, with fascinating prosthetic arms to simulate the sailor's "muskies") arrives in the little town of Sweethaven to find the father (Ray Walston) who
abandoned him long ago. He meets the skinny girl of his dreams, Olive Oyl (Shelley Duvall), and the two of them adopt a foundling, little Swee' Pea (Wesley Ivan Hurt, who steals every scene he's in). The gargantuan Bluto (Paul Smith), scourge of Sweethaven, loves Olive Oyl, and the resulting fight
between him and Popeye is the film's highlight. Altman's trademark play with naturalistic sound goes too far here, with Williams and the other actors muttering under their breaths in such a casual fashion that many of the lines are missed. The film's real star is its magnificent set (filmed and
constructed in Malta), though Williams manages to screw up his face and eye in a credible imitation of the drawings, and Duvall is perfect as the gangly Olive Oyl.
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