Popeye [1980]

Nothing interests filmmaker Robert Altman more than a contained culture that mixes bare humanity with local eccentricity (think of his M*A*S*H and Nashville). So Altman's Popeye (1980), based on the old comic strip, works best as a portrait of a busy, cluttered, cartoonish town called Sweethaven. But it is much less successful as a comprehensible story about the famous sailor with massive forearms and a relationship with Olive Oyl (Shelley Duvall). Robin Williams plays Popeye with his usual brilliance for mimicry, Paul Dooley makes a credible Wimpy, and Paul L. Smith makes an impression as the oversized bully, Bluto. But this strange, disastrous film never becomes more than an expensive workshop airing out Altmanesque themes. --Tom Keogh

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