Popeye (1980)

popeyeWould you give up looking for someone special to you? In December 1980, Popeye never stopped looking for his pappy, but found more than he ever thought he would.

Directing this 114 minute adventure/comedy/family/fantasy/musical/romance is Robert Altman.

Robin Williams as Popeye, Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl, Paul Dooley as Wimpy, Paul L. Smith as Bluto, Wesley Ivan Hurt as Swee’pea, Ray Walston as Poopdeck Pappy, Donald Moffat as The Taxman and Jack Mercer as (voice of in prologue) Popeye.

The town of Sweethaven is where Popeye the sailor has just dropped anchor. This small town is where Popeye is continuing the search for his long lost pappy. While he’s at Sweethaven Popeye runs into Olive Oyl, who’s getting ready for her engagement party. Little does Popeye know, Olive isn’t really happy about her engagement to captain Bluto, but fear makes the town of Sweethaven do a lot of things they don’t want to. Fortunately, Popeye isn’t caught in the same grip of fear the towns folk are. So it’s no surprise when Popeye finds himself going up against Bluto.

In 1929, a comic strip called Thimble Theatre had the first appearance of a character created by Elzie Crisler Segar (better known as E.C. Segar) named Popeye. The Popeye comic strip found it’s fan base and became a popular strip for the Thimble Theatre. Then, in 1933 Max and Dave Fleischer adapted the Thimble Theatre characters into a series of shorts for Paramount Pictures. So when Popeye needed a voice, Billy Costello gave him one from 1933-1935. At which point the talented voice actor named Jack Mercer took over during 1942-1957. Through different projects, Mercer would wind up voicing Popeye for (about) 4 decades. Over the years Popeye has seen his fair share of media time, be it through comic strips, comics, cartoons, video games and even movies. All those years of fan love helped Popeye get ranked #20 in TV Guide’s 50 greatest cartoon characters of all time list in 2002.

Using characters created by E.C. Segar, Jules Feiffer created the screenplay for this musical comedy. The story has a lot of familiar elements that fans are used to seeing, along with a few twists to introduce some other popular elements. The storyline is light-hearted, fun and filled with humor. All those things make it very similar to the cartoon antics that many have grown to love with the world of Popeye.


The playthrough was great and it held my attention the entire time. Another thing this flick has going on that made the playthrough so entertaining was the musical aspect. Harry Nilsson did the work to make some very memorable music and lyrics that the cast breaks into throughout the film.

Even though the whole cast does a great job bringing the characters to life, two stars stand out the most to me with their roles. First off, of course, is Williams as Popeye, he was fantastic! Between his voice work and mannerisms, Williams truely did blow me down as Popeye. Then there was Duvall as Olive, again you have someone that physically looked the part but also was able to work wonders with her character. One of the things (that I think) makes this film cool is you can look back through the cast and see a great assembly of stars throughout. Like Paul Dooley, Richard Libertini, Bill Irwin, Wayne Robson and Linda Hunt to name a few. Each of these stars have chiseled out their place in the movie industry, but also helped create a film that could withstand the test of time.

Visually, everything looked really cool. Part of that is due to the costume design done by Scott Bushnell and the set decoration that Jack Stephens pulled off. After everything was brought together I thought they did a great job in pulling the world of Popeye off the pages and bringing everything to life. It has a great mix of real life interaction and the comical wacky world that we’ve been used to reading/seeing with Popeye, and Giuseppe Rotunno captured it all with his work on the cinematography.

Side note, this one was budgeted for 20 million and the box office (world wide) pulled in 60 million. Yet, Paramount and Disney wrote this one off as a flop in their books because it wasn’t the blockbuster they thought it would be. Also, Robert Evans (an executive at the time) wanted to see Dustin Hoffman as Popeye and Lily Tomlin as Olive. Man I’m glad that one didn’t go through.


Summary : This would make a great family movie night, and is a fun excuse to introduce the kids to a great old school classic. Still need a reason to watch it? Well, here's two reasons then. One, as a Popeye fan, getting a live action movie that was actually good was a true treat. Since bringing something from a book (or comic) to life it can be screwed up e-a-s-i-l-y as we've seen in the past. Two... Robin Williams! Need I say more?

It's rated PG for violence.