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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