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Masterpiece. You heard me right. MASTERPIECE!
joeshannongabe17 November 2002
I see that lots of people hate this movie. I guess I can see why. It's so idiosyncratic, so loose, so out there, so...Altman. But this is truly one of the sweetest, gentlest, and most tender movies I have ever seen. This movie can be enjoyed if for no other reason than for its total lack of irony. Like Popeye, it is what it is. And I believe it to be a masterpiece.

This was Robin Williams first serious movie role (2 full years before Garp) and he is a brilliant Popeye. He brings so much humanity and pathos to this character that it is easy to see the great movies in his future. Shelly Duval was born to play Olive Oyl and she does not squander the role of a lifetime. And in a smaller role, a standout performance is turned in Bill Irwin as Ham, Olive's bumbling, stumbling, clown of an ex-boyfriend.

The real star of the show, however, is the atmosphere that Altman conjures up, bringing the 2d comic strip vividly to life and setting you down in this magical little island town of Sweet Haven. Harry Nilssons score is pitch perfect and his songs help to sketch out the characters motives and emotions ("He Needs Me", sung by Duvall, is currently being revived thanks to it's being prominently featured in PT Anderson's "Punch Drunk Love").

One more thing about this movie- I can watch it with my three year old son and we sing the songs and both enjoy it immensely. There are so few movies that can do that. Like I said, a masterpiece!
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An Outstanding Film!
xlut8da0215 January 2005
What's with all the bashing? I never get tired of watching this warm, visceral musical that pulls me in with its myriad textures, striking colors, and unpredictable pacing and dialogue which never seems contrived or scripted (and of course was often expertly improvised). It is the unfettered antithesis to all the shiny, over-produced media of our age. No pretty faces. No product placements. No feel of a commercialized film crafted to be anything other than a comedy musical adaptation of one of my favorite comic strips. It adapts the world of E.C. Daily's style, before King Features "cleaned it up" for animation. Disjointed, rambling...borderline insane, just like the comic! And the music is bonus all the way through. Quirky, playful, simple numbers that perfectly reflect the feel of the old comic. But then again, I liked Hudson Hawk and the Forbidden Zone, so you probably don't want to listen to me. I'm not holding my breath for a commentary-loaded SE DVD.
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A tragically underrated film, Popeye is actually quite brilliant!
wickman10 July 1999
I remember when Altman released Popeye and it was slammed by most critics and ignored by the public. It deserves much better than that though!

Fantastic set design, great acting, high production values, strangely off kilter tunes, and just general all around weirdness make Popeye one of my favorites. Brilliantly twisted and twistedly brilliant.

Disagree? Oh well, whatever....."I yam what I yam and I likes what I likes!"
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One Eye Wide Shut
tedg3 December 2003
This project was reviled by critics and disowned by Altman and Williams. It corresponded to DuVal's breakdown, and was all but the end of the heavy drinker Nilsson's adventures in film.

But I think its great. You have to remember that it predates every comic/cartoon to film project except 'Superman,' which really was a version of the TeeVee show. And you have to appreciate that 'Popeye' the cartoon is one of the very few that featured humans and therefore was more abstract than most.

Watch it now, and see that it was well ahead of its time and now stacks up as extremely introspective: along the lines of 'Alphaville.'

It had Robin Williams and Ray Walston, both famous TeeVee aliens, or so they were known at the time. It was penned by the notoriously ironic, cartoonist Feiffer, someone who specialized in personal social angst. The songs - a major element here - were by the self-destructive genius Nilsson, and directed by Altman when he was interested in social commentary.

All, plus Duvall, were at the height of their powers. Even the quirky Van Dyke Parks appears.

What makes this project so interesting and appealing is that everyone is completely simpatico with Feiffer's Jarryesque vision, which is disconnected from reality and had no cinematic model.

How so many talents could be so adventuresome and coordinated at the same time is a real puzzle.

The bit about how 'large' Bluto is - and how Shelly mentions it - makes me smile every time I recall it. The social text is a bit heavy, but so what?

This is what made Tim Burton possible.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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"I ain't no physicist, but I knows what matters."
Ryan N.13 February 1999
There are two movies I have seen in which every line is good and that I can watch dozens of times without becoming the slightest bit bored. Those are The Big Lebowski and Popeye. I just saw Popeye recently for the first time in about twelve years and I can still recite it line for line from when I was a kid. I must have watched it fifty times (It was my babysitter). After I recently watched it, it was on again later that night and I watched it all the way through again. It's a fantastic movie and I'm blown away that the user rating is so low.
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A fascinating plunge into an the imaginary universe of "Popeye"
Fig-68 November 1999
Robert Altman's "Popeye" is a film to be lauded for its production design and performances. Altman took obvious care in bringing the town of Sweethaven and its residents to life . . . notice the bustling activity, the individual characterizations, and even the big, cartoony special effects (e.g. - Bluto blowing smoke from his ears) that both pay homage to the original "Popeye" and separate it as a new direction for the story.

This well-known story is brought to life by the actors in it, most notably Robin Williams as Popeye and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl. Robin Williams, complete with immense forearms and squinting eyes, gruffly plows through his adventures with the same tough sensitivity we've come to love from the character over the years. And Shelley Duvall . . . is simply astounding. She BECOMES Olive Oyl. Her gestures, her speech patterns, her gliding walk . . . it has to be seen! Duvall literally transforms herself into a living cartoon, one we care about more and more as the picture runs its course.

"Popeye" is a great conversion, from the comic strip to cartoon to film. With added depth and atmosphere, it remains an underrated classic appropriate for those willing to be transported by art to a fantasy land far , far away.
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Glad I Finally Got Around To Viewing This
ccthemovieman-118 October 2006
I never saw this movie until last week. "Better late than never," I guess, because I liked it. I thought it was good and....in a very different way. I had known of this film for a long time but did not realize it was a musical. That didn't excite me, but I wound up enjoying most of the music because it was only done in short segments and the songs were decent. None were excellent, but none were awful, either.

Popeye was fun to hear. Robin Williams had Popeye's mumbling down to a tee. I suggest you watch this with the English subtitles on so you can get all of what Popeye says, or you'll miss a lot of funny lines because of his mumbling. The same can almost be said of Shelly Duvall's impersonation of "Olive Oyl," although you can understand her better. She, too, was fun to watch. I read somewhere that she was very depressed over her performance in this film, but she shouldn't have been. She was perfect for the role.

I didn't think the supporting characters were much, such as Bluto or Wimpy, but Popeye's dad, "Poopdeck Pappy," (Ray Walston) who appears late in the film is a real hoot, and little baby "Swee Pea" is cute. "Pappy" adds a lot of spark and energy to the film, just when it was really needed. My only concern was that it was a really clean movie up to then and Walston changes that, although not with anything really harsh but a number of "let's haul ass" statements and the like.

However, overall, it's a nice, pleasing type of film. It's no award-winner, but it's a lot better than what you might have read from national critics. If you like Popeye's cartoons and comics, you should like this film, too. I would gladly watch this again.
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The worst masterpiece ever made
SinginDetective7 April 2010
Wow, again "the worst movie ever made". At least when you go by those self proclaimed internet-movie-critics on IMDb who never bother to bestow upon the heavily bored public their highly imaginative musings like "Two hours of my life I will never get back", without even having one (a life that is) in the first place. Fact is: Every movie in this database is "the worst ever made" ... for someone ... then scroll up or down a bit and suddenly the same movie will become a "never fully appreciated masterpiece". What does this teach us? The truth, like always, lies somewhere in between and is highly subjective. Go and see it for yourself. Don't be interested in what I have to say. Well, if you still are: I quite liked it.
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aicram10 April 1999
This is one of my all time favorites. It is both over the top and subtle. There is so much going on...that you can watch it many times and see something new each time. The acting, the sets, the costumes and most of all Harry Nielsen's music, give so many layers to this underrated movie. Shelley Duval's song, He's Large, is such a gem. She can say nothing positive about her beau...much as she tries and wants to impress her friends...except that...he is large!
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Altman's Utopia
EdgarST1 July 2001
I feel so content to see that viewers' opinions about "Popeye" are changing. I liked this motion picture since its release and just as someone else mentions here, I sit and watch it again whenever it's playing on television. I was a fan of Popeye's cartoons when a kid, and as a grown up I have become an indeclinable admirer of the films of Robert Altman, who I consider one of the greatest directors of American cinema. As someone wrote in a review of "Dr T. & the Women", Altman is a genre by himself. One may go to see an Altman comedy, but it is better to be warned that one must emphasize the director's name instead of the genre. This is indeed a film version of a comic-strip character, but I believe "Popeye" is mainly Altman's (and writer-cartoonist Jules Feiffer's) vision of Utopia in a town by the sea called Sweethaven, where "Flags are waving wet people from the sea, safe from democracy, sweeter than a melon tree" (lyrics to "Sweethaven", an anthem by Harry Nilsson). It is a love postcard from the filmmaker to his fellow Americans, who so far have preferred to follow the critics' failed opinions about his work, or his peers' disdain when the time comes to give out awards. And then Sweethaven is also more than that: it is Altman's surrealistic vision of humanity dealing with its basic emotions and needs. For the recreation of a world where "God must love us" (Op. cit.), Wolf Kroeger created marvelous sets in Malta, photographed by Giuseppe Rotunno (the magician of light who captured so many of Fellini's clowns and buffoons), peopled with a cast giving its best and to the rhythm of simple, sweet and affectionate songs by Nilsson, that seem more than appropriate for this universe --I do not agree with negative opinions about the songs: they are in complete atonement with the spirit of the film and cartoons. (Do you remember Olive singing "I Want a Clean, Shaven Man"?) What I find disturbing about the film is its sudden change of mood, from observation of people's strength and foibles, into an action movie. It makes me wonder if "Popeye" was severely cut by its distributors. In the soundtrack album, there are songs never heard in the movie. It would be great to see a restored version of "Popeye". But there are many wonderful things about it as it is, that I can pass the deficiencies. For example, one of my favorite scenes is Popeye's first dinner with the Oyls: it is pure Altman, with overlapping dialogues and his brand of humor all over the place. Then you have the whole engagement sequence, with Olive escaping from home as she sings "He's Large", meeting Popeye and finding Swee'pea, while Bluto destroys her house. All the humanity contained in the "cartoonish" frame makes me love this film. I just can't help it.
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This movie may have been poorly received because it was misunderstood.
hes310 December 2005
The first time I saw "Popeye," I though it cluttered visually and audially, not believable, and downright silly. When I later realized it was meant to be viewed as a "living cartoon," I did a 180 on it.

The visual clutter I began to see instead as the delightful and detailed set that was Sweethaven - "early demolition," indeed! That, combined with a rich selection of both staple Popeye secondary characters like Wimpy and new ones like The Taxman formed a fitting backdrop against which the interaction of the main characters takes place. Some of the audial clutter was simply Robin Williams duplicating with uncanny accuracy the verbal ramblings and running "dialog" that Popeye always had going on in the cartoon shorts (can't imagine anyone other than him in the role).

And, bits" too numerous to mention, pulled right from the cartoons, add to the fun. Bluto "seeing red" is just an example.

A sadly under-appreciated movie, to be sure. If you loved the cartoon shorts, you'll get what should prove to be a satisfying dose of live action duplication with "Popeye."
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Perfectly captures the pre-militarized Popeye
natatorium7 July 2001
Robert Altman was just the right director to bring "Popeye" to live action. His use of naturalistic, overlapping and mumbled speech patterns, used to such good effect in "M*A*S*H," is the perfect fit for the residents of the shanty town of Sweethaven. Along with his production crew, he expertly reconstructs the environs and reanimates the zany spirit of the early black and white Popeye cartoons, the ones before Popeye was cleaned up and turned into a tool of U.S. war propaganda. Robin Williams carries off the title role with expert skill in a performance that he, especially he, very easily could have gone over the top with. Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl and the kid who played Swee'Pea are likewise letter perfect for their roles.

One of the things I always liked about this movie is the music. Harry Nilsson, a greatly underappreciated talent, came up with a delightful batch of songs that are that are as rich in character as the atmosphere of Sweethaven is full of sodium. Altman's "Popeye," along with Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy," is one of the rare film versions of a cartoon that succeeds. It does so by staying true to the look and spirit of the original. It wasn't created by committee to be a summer blockbuster, hence it is allowed to have a personality and flavor -- a flavor that blooms with repeat viewings.
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Childhood memories
karl_consiglio8 October 2006
I remember my Dad taking me to watch this film as a Christmas treet. This film was made here in Malta and we are very proud of it, the set still stands today as a tourist attraction in Anchor bay. i remember loving this film. Robbin Williams was only known for the series of "Mork and Mindy', he still had a very long way to go but you can see that he was more than a promising star in the entertainment business. I learnt that at the time he was having serious troubles with cocaine and a cheating wife. This film was really cool and should they re-attempt it(not that Popeye is so much in vogue this days....although he should be) I can't imagine anyone but Robin Williams himself for the part.
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Impossible to recreate? Nope!
mschrock20 July 2002
The recreation of Popeye characters in this film is phenomenal!!

I've always felt one of the biggest challenges in movie making is to recreate characters that are either already well-known, or ones that have been fully developed in a best-selling book. No plot can carry a viewer along if they are aren't seeing the character they expect to see, and already love.

It's hard enough to do that for a book, but for a cartoon character who's actual visual image is ingrained in the entire viewing audience, it has to be a HUGE challenge.

Well, Popeye and Olive couldn't have been done better. The rest of the cast is well done too.

Any version of a "Popeye like" plot would be just fine. Just don't ask Popeye to do something the "real" Popeye wouldn't do, and I'm happy enjoying the recreated characters. Great movie!
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"Sweethaven" for Popeye fans!
kl-reagan30 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Starting with the perfect cast and continuing through hilarious fights and musical sequences, Popeye is an 'eye popper' for all ages. Sure, some of the music is a bit dull, but what it lacks in music it makes up for with superior acting. Robin Williams did a spectacular job with the vernacular and mumblings of the one-eyed sailor. The only problem I had with it was the fact that Popeye wouldn't eat spinach until the end. Robin Williams should have nominated for "Best Actor in a Comedy" or something like that. On the other hand the sets should have gotten an award as well. Building the city of Sweethaven on the shore of a lake (or ocean) It was difficult, I'm sure, but they did it and it looks great. It's "strong to the finish cause it ate its spinach." Its "Popeye!" My vote is 8 out of 10.
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Charming -- in fact, magical
210west4 March 2006
I guess you'd say this film is... controversial. Leonard Maltin declares it's a "bomb," critics have termed it "disastrous," and a lot of IMDb's viewers seem to find it either boring or (more weirdly) "scary." I'm glad to see, however, that a number of IMDBers have hailed "Popeye" as an underrated classic; put me down on their side. I've watched the movie four times now -- certain scenes, in fact, more than a dozen times -- and continue to find it funny, charming in a quirky way, true to the spirit of the Popeye cartoons, and in fact quite magical. Normally I can't stomach Robin Williams, but he and Shelley Duvall are delightful and endearing in this; it's a bit of casting made in heaven, and they've got real chemistry together. Some viewers dismiss the musical numbers, but I love their oddly loose, unpretentious, offhand quality; the songs are simple, infectious, and -- that word again -- endearing. (Lately I've been walking around with the songs playing in my iPod; they can cheer one up in the middle of a New York crowd.) For me the best musical number is the first, the haunting and memorable "Sweethaven," when -- after those strange, dark, disturbing opening-credit shots of the lone figure of Popeye rowing his way across the dark and stormy sea -- the sun suddenly comes out and we're introduced, as on a stage set, to the population of Sweethaven as one by one the characters come trooping out of their homes.
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Popeye is the guy
view_and_review27 February 2006
I saw this movie as a kid and I loved it, I saw it again just the other day and I loved it even more. I try my best to watch older movies and view them as if I was still in that era. Robin Williams does an phenomenal job as Popeye as does Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl. Everyone was so animated and comical that you couldn't help but laugh, if not chuckle. There's not many feuds better than that between Popeye and Bluto. It was great the way they went at it. I liked the acrobatic stunts, the vibrancy of the characters, and the wholesomeness of the movie. It is a movie the entire family can enjoy. I would give it a better score except the singing was so awful. I give it a 7/10
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A classic and a film you will not forget
c.riker1 July 2003
This is one of my father's all time favorites. I was young when I first saw it, and remember loving it. In fact, I still do. The music is absolutely wonderful and Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall are terrific as Popeye and Olive Oyl, respectively. Paul Dooley steals all of his scenes as Wimpy, the hamburger loving oaf.

Given that so many comic strips/books are being made into full length films it is nice to see a film that does justice to its inspiration and performs as expected. Rent Popeye. You'll be very pleasantly surprised. I for one am shocked at its low IMDB score... give it a chance... it far exceeds the score it has been given!
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I'm POPEYE The Sailor Man......
GOWBTW17 March 2008
Everyone remembers the spinach chomping' fist popping' brawler who woos Olive Oyl(Shelley Duvall), and beats up Bluto(Paul L. Smith) at the end. It's Popeye(Robin Williams)! The salty sailor with big arms has hit the big screen hard. The town of Sweethaven has become a town under scrutiny when Olive's fiancé Bluto gives out a curfew, and the town's tax man(Donald Moffat) gives them a hard time. Popeye, the sea-fairing sailor comes to this campy town searching for his "Pappy"(Ray Walston). This old salt was working for Bluto until Popeye and Olive Oyl discovered SweePea in a basket. The Oyls discovered also what kind of a person Bluto was so Olive called off the engagement, because like she said about him, "HE'S JUST A MEAN OLD BRUTE!" The fight scenes in the movie are hilarious. The fight at RoughHouse's, the boxing match against OxBlood, and the fight fight scene against Bluto after feeding Popeye spinach, one punch turned him yellow. "Scaredy cat! Scaredy cat!" Very musical indeed, I think this movie is worth the keep for fans of the sailor. You must be strong to the finish, when I eat me spinach, I'm Popeye the Sailor Man! TOOT! TOOT! 3 OUT OF 5 STARS!
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I never liked the popeye cartoons but this movie is a treasure!
driker22 July 2002
Let's get this straight right up front -- I LIKE this movie.

The Popeye cartoon strip was uninteresting to me, the movie cartoons a bit of a bore, but Robert Altman has managed to take Popeye and his weird friends and compose a wonderful film. Compose is the right term for me because this movie is basically music (not just a musical) from beginning to close to the end*. I've seen the overlapping dialog criticized in other comments. Try listening to it as a form of counterpoint. The meaning of the words is less important than the cadence and the structured overlap of sounds.

Nielson (just an OK musician to me in other things) pulls off some (not all) masterful songs to drop into the over-all musical fabric of this film. Robert Altman's imagination, creativity, and skill at its best! And the incredibly well-chosen cast lives and works right up to the standard of the film. Where is that DVD, people?

*OK, so the end is a little weak.
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One Word: Fantastic
departed0726 February 2005
"Popeye" is one of the best comic-strip adaptations in the 1980's. What makes the film realistic like the comic strip is the actors themselves. Robin Williams is pitch perfect as the one-eyed sailor who is looking for his father; Shelly Duvall is great and looks exactly like Olive Oyl; Paul Dooley strikes the resemblance of Wimpy the hamburger eating lover and Paul L. Smith is scary as the brute Bluto. The film is just like the comic strips, and so life like as well about Popeye trying to look for his father, and is welcomed by the Oyles who take him in. Yet, as Olive tries to ditch her engagement with Bluto, the character Sweetpea is introduce as an abandon baby for which Popeye and Olive take in. With the baby having a gift of predicting the future, Wimpy tries to use Sweetpea to win horse bets at a race. The rest of the plot I'll leave you to figure out as you watch the film. A childhood favorite that is still one of a kind in every direction.
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davidtholl127 June 2003
It is very nice to see a revival of interest in this quirky little film. The art direction of this film is simply amazing, and deserved to win an Oscar for being able to completely capture the homely innocence of the story's setting, in rich detail.

Many have derided the story as unfocused, but there is an epic sweep to the storyline, which requires an episodic approach. This film requires paying attention on multiple levels, and rewards viewers who do so, as few other epic films have.

There are some detractors who can't handle the fact that the film is part Musical, but this is definitely in keeping with original cartoons, which frequently featured music in their storylines. In any event, the half-dozen or so songs come at appropriate intervals, and in some cases are Broadway quality set-piece showstoppers, like the scene in the Rough House Diner, and Pappy's diskgruntlement about Kids!

I will leave it to others to comment on the all-round fine ensemble acting, but I would like to finish by saying, that this is truly a film where the whole is greater than its parts. From the rich tapestry of Elzie Segar's original imaginings, to the lush production values brought to this vision by Robert Altman and company, this is a film that fails on some levels but succeeds on many more.
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Very strange and amusing.
flundar24 March 2003
This movie is very unique in that it is a charming family movie, sappy and protagonistic, yet uncannily bizarre. The kicker is it really seems like a live action version of the old classic black and white Popeye cartoons, right down to the spinning pipe.

Im 30, grew up in Georgia, and have seen many of the old Popeye cartoons. These cartoons didnt make much sense, but they were very predictable. Their charm was in the little things. Things like Popeyes constant punny comments, the confusingly random splice of ludicrous characters, and the overblown fighting gags.

I remember a Popeye cartoon where Popeye has to walk Olives little dog. He reluctantly agrees (sap!) and he and sissy dog meet up with Bluto walking his big bull dog. Harassment ensues, Popeye says "Me pekinese is week in de knees", they both eat spinach, and in a barrage of whimsical yet freakishly brutal retaliation, Popeye and pekinese triumph.

These cartoons werent really my favorite, but seeing them put to live action with intricate detail is a trip. In creating the world Popeye lives in, there is a necessarily huge amount of artistic license, but the sets are so cool and colorful, it almost seems like another planet. The movie is basically an introduction to the whole Popeye saga. The central cast of characters are all well cast and faithfully portrayed and the rib jabbingly obtuse humor is playfully retained.

One thing you must brace yourself for is that this is a musical. Critically lambasted after release in 1980, it was called boring, cluttered, and a lot of attention was called to the songs as being ill-conceived and vapid. But there is a quaint lowbrow feel to the songs, as the lyrics are intentionally simple and repetitive. Personally I like the music, its catchy in its noticeably unsophisticated originality that seems to fit with the vintage, salty world of Popeye.

I saw this movie in the theater as a kid, and Im not sure if I would recommend it as a kids movie. But seeing it again as an adult in a slightly altered state, I found it a rush of memories and laughs. If you plan to see this movie and remember the cartoon, think of the old show first, and be amazed as it almost comes to life. It cant actually do that, but they give it a frighteningly good shot.

Favorite Popeye line "Anudda ting I got, is a senkse of humiligration."

I give it 8/10.
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Coxer9927 May 1999
Williams is perfect in the title role of director Altman's adaptation of the lesser known Popeye of the comic strip, and not the character made famous in the cartoons. It makes for quite an entertaining film with Duvall dutifully filling the shoes of Olive Oyl and Walston decked out as Popeye's long lost Pappy. Kids should be entertained and adults should find the style and characters interesting throughout.
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Great Musical Laughter
snowblynd5 February 2002
To date Popeye is one of my favorite musicals. The songs are nicely coreographed and witty. It have been some time since I have seen the movie as the video stores around me do not carry it. I have been patiently waiting for the DVD. To me this movie is a must see for someone in the mood for a great comic movie adaption as well as lots of musical fun.
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