PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Popeye (Robin Williams), a sailor, arrives at the small coastal town of Sweethaven (“Sweethaven – An Anthem”) while searching for his long-lost father. He is immediately feared by the townsfolk simply because he is a stranger (“Blow Me Down”), and is accosted by a greedy taxman (Donald Moffat). He rents a room at the Oyl family’s boarding house, whose daughter, Olive (Shelley Duvall), is preparing for her engagement party. Her hand is promised to Captain Bluto (Paul L. Smith), a powerful, perpetually angry bully who runs the town in the name of the mysterious Commodore. In the morning, Popeye visits the local diner for breakfast (“Everything Is Food”) and demonstrates his strength as he brawls with a gang of provocative ruffians.

On the night of the engagement party, Bluto and the townsfolk arrive at the Oyls’ home. Olive, however, sneaks out of the house (“He’s Large”). She encounters Popeye, who failed to fit in with the townsfolk at the party. The two eventually come across an abandoned baby in a basket (Wesley Ivan Hurt). Popeye adopts the child, naming him Swee’Pea, and the two return to the Oyls’ home. Bluto, however, has grown increasingly furious with Olive’s absence, eventually flying into a rage and destroying the house (“I’m Mean”). When he sees Popeye and Olive with Swee’Pea, Bluto beats Popeye into submission and declares heavy taxation for the Oyls.

The taxman repossesses the remains of the Oyls’ home and all their possessions. The Oyls’ son, Castor, decides to compete against the local heavyweight boxer, Oxblood Oxheart (Peter Bray) in the hopes of winning a hefty prize for his family. However, Castor is no match for Oxheart and is savagely beaten and knocked out of the ring. Popeye takes the ring in Castor’s place and defeats Oxheart, putting on a show for the townsfolk and finally earning their respect. Back at home, Popeye and Olive sing Swee’Pea to sleep (“Swee’ Pea’s Lullaby”).

The next day, Olive tells Popeye that during his match with Oxheart, she discovered that Swee’Pea can predict the future by whistling when he hears the correct answer to a question. Wimpy (Paul Dooley) overhears and asks to take Swee’Pea out for a walk, though he actually takes him to the horse races and wins two games. Popeye, however, is outraged, and vents his frustrations to the racing parlor’s customers (“I Yam What I Yam”). Fearing further exploitation of his child, Popeye moves out of the Oyls’ home and onto the docks; when the taxman harasses him, Popeye pushes him into the water, prompting a celebration by the townspeople. In the chaos, Wimpy, who has been intimidated by Bluto, kidnaps Swee’Pea for him. That night, Olive remarks to herself about her budding relationship with Popeye (“He Needs Me”), while Popeye writes a message in a bottle for Swee’Pea (“Sailin'”).

Wimpy sees Bluto taking Swee’Pea into the Commodore’s ship; he and Olive inform Popeye. Inside, Bluto presents the boy to the curmudgeonly Commodore, promising that he is worth a fortune; however, the Commodore refuses to listen, reminding Bluto that his buried treasure is all the fortune he needs. His patience with the Commodore exhausted, Bluto ties him up and takes Swee’Pea himself (“It’s Not Easy Being Me”). Popeye storms the ship and meets the Commodore, realizing that he is his father, Poopdeck Pappy (Ray Walston). However, Pappy initially denies that Popeye is his son; to prove it, Pappy tries to feed Popeye spinach, which he claims is his family’s source of great strength. However, Popeye hates spinach and refuses to eat it. Bluto kidnaps Olive as well and sets sail to find Pappy’s treasure. Popeye, Pappy, and the Oyl family board Pappy’s ship to give pursuit. Bluto sails to Scab Island, a desolate island in the middle of the ocean, while Pappy argues with his son and rants about children (“Kids”).

Popeye catches Bluto and fights him, but despite his determination, Popeye is overpowered. During the duel, Pappy recovers his treasure and opens the chest to reveal a collection of personal sentimental items from Popeye’s infancy, including a few cans of spinach. A giant octopus awakens and attacks Swee’Pea and Olive from underwater. With Popeye in a choke hold, Pappy throws him a can of spinach; Bluto, recognizing Popeye’s dislike for spinach, force-feeds him the can before throwing him into the water. The spinach revitalizes Popeye and boosts his strength; he knocks Bluto down in one punch, then swiftly deals with the giant octupus, sending it flying hundreds of feet into the air. Bluto’s clothing turns yellow and he swims away as Popeye celebrates his victory (“Popeye The Sailor Man”).


For most of us, Popeye was a Saturday morning cartoon character, or someone who our grandparents used to get us to eat spinach, or some other green vegetable (can you believe that today’s generation doesn’t have a clue as to who Popeye is?!?) .As it turns out, Popeye is based more on the comic strip, which was a bit more controversial (by today’s standards) than the cartoon.

What is this about?

Robert Altman’s deft hand at the helm made this 1980 film a classic. Based on E.C. Segar’s comic strip, Popeye stars Robin Williams as the super-strong, spinach-scarfing sailor man who’s searching for his father. During a storm that wrecks his ship, Popeye washes ashore and winds up rooming at the Oyl household, where he meets Olive (Shelley Duvall). Before he can win her heart, he must first contend with Olive’s fiancé, Bluto (Paul L. Smith).

What did I like?

Popeye. I’m not sure there is anyone else that could have pulled off playing our favorite spinach eating sailor than Robin Williams. He comedic abilities, nonsense ramblings, and facial movements are more than enough to bring Popeye to life. Other than the fact he had blonde hair, Williams was spot on with his portrayal.

Just enough. Pretty much everything we all know and love from Popeye is on display to see here. Popeye has two different sailor suits, Wimpy says his infamous line, Pappy and Swee’Pea make appearances, and of course the love triangle between Popeye, Bluto, and Olive is front and center. With all this, you would think it would be too much, but they didn’t overdo anything, but rather gave the audience just enough to satisfy the craving.

What didn’t I like?

Character design. I am not a an o the way they designed some of these characters, most notable Popeye and Olive Oyl. It should be noted that I have never liked that skinny beanpole, anyway, so there is a bit of a bias in terms of her. Popeye, on the other hand…I understand what they were going for with the exaggerated forearms, those are a signature of Popeye, but they just looked so fake, that even I have to mention them.

Music. Apparently, this is a musical. Um, last I checked, musicals have to have enjoyable songs and/or music in them. This has neither. Yes, it has songs, but they are just there, serving no real purpose. On top of that, these songs are about as wretched as possible. If they wanted to make this into a musical, they should have hired someone competent to write the music for it. As it stands, the music in Forbidden Zone seems like Mozart compared to this.

Bluto and spinach. As I said earlier, this is based more on the comic strip than the cartoon, so the lack of Bluto may have been attributed to that. However, I felt that the big bully could have used more of a chance to be developed as an antagonist, as opposed to just be some big guy doing some allegedly bad stuff. Also, spinach is a big part of Popeye lore, and yet we don’t get much of it in the film, at all. As a matter of fact, it is about an hour in before it is even mention, except for a passing moment at a vegetable stand.

This is a film that seems to have people torn as to what they think of it. For me, Popeye was ambitious, but joyless. I had no fun watching this. Throw in the music and it just made the experience that much worse. I won’t say that you need to avoid this like the plague, but please don’t go out of your to try and find it because it isn’t worth it, I assure you.

2 1/2 out off 5 stars


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