Popeye the sailor man goes to the seaside village of Sweethaven to look for his long-lost father, Poopdeck Pappy. While there, he falls in love with Olive Oyl, who is engaged to the bullying Captain Bluto, who works for a mystery man called the Commodore, collecting taxes. Popeye and Olive find a foundling who can predict the future, and name him Swee'Pea. The baby is kidnapped and taken out to the Commodore's ship, and when Popeye goes to the rescue, he learns that his Pappy is the Commodore. Bluto has tied Pappy up and is using Swee'Pea to help him find the old man's treasure. After Popeye learns the secret of gaining super strength by eating spinach, he and Bluto fight to the finish, the treasure is found, and Bluto ends up swimming out to sea. (official distributor synopsis)


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English Directed by Robert Altman and starring Robin Williams, the burlesque musical Popeye (1980) was one of two rare co-productions between Disney and Paramount (the other being the phenomenal The Kite Runner). It was made in Disney’s so-called “dark age”, which is demonised in the official historiography because the then-boss Ron W. Miller steered the studio away from its values, which are still extolled to this day. But like other projects made under Miller’s management, Popeye is a distinctive and ambitious work, and an underrated, though bizarre, gem. According to the narrow-minded interpreters of Altman’s filmography, however, this spectacularly phantasmagorical project is often considered to be a misstep or a film made only for the money. It is in fact a unique attempt to translate a cartoon world, with its characteristic rhythmic dynamics, visual chaos, nonsensical logic and physical elasticity of the characters, into a live-action format. Furthermore, on closer inspection the narrative, which presents to viewers not only the titular protagonist, but also an entire maritime town with all kinds of odd characters, comes across as a cheerfully absurdist paraphrase of Altman’s iconic mosaics of tragicomic life stories. As in his early gem Brewster McCloud, Altman shows off both his neglected comedic side and his subversion of classic Hollywood formats, particularly burlesque, musicals and big-budget costume flicks. It is no coincidence that Paul Thomas Anderson, a great admirer of Altman, incorporated a wonderful homage to Popeye into his own similarly polarizing gem, Punch-Drunk Love (2002). ()


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English In its time, this co-production between Paramount and Disney, with the maestro Altman in the director’s chair, was a major Hollywood flop. Its creators admirably succeeded in recreating the look, speech and mannerisms of the animated characters with live actors, but it didn’t make them likeable or wonderfully playful. In fact, they are rather unlikable both visually and in terms of their behavior. As are the musical numbers. Perhaps it needed a more “family-friendly” director like Spielberg, a filmmaker with a feel for fairy-tale magic and a child’s perception of the world. Then again, maybe even he couldn’t have made it better. ()



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English Yes, at the beginning there was a bit of nostalgia when the opening theme of the series I liked as a child played, but as soon as the actors appeared, it went downhill. Robin Williams is great and he created the character brilliantly. Shelley Duvall is equally excellent, but what's the point if you just can't watch it for two hours? It's silly, and on top of that, it's a musical, which makes it even worse because it tries so hard to resemble the cartoon character and cram in too much action. A lot happens, but you still just wish it would end. ()

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