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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
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What's the story?
Director Robert Altman's live action POPEYE stars Robin Williams as the spinach-eating sailor of newspaper and cartoon fame. Popeye (Robin Williams) drops anchor in Sweethaven, a ramshackle little seaside town where the buildings are as odd as their inhabitants. He rents a room in the Oyl household, which is preparing for the upcoming engagement of daughter Olive (Shelly Duvall). Her prospective fiancé is Bluto, who runs the town for his boss, the feared but seldom-seen Commodore. Sweethaven isn't the friendliest place in the world (the major industry seems to be taxation), but it becomes a home to Popeye when he adopts a foundling. Swee'Pea, as he names the child, helps forge a bond between him and Olive Oyl, to the chagrin of Bluto. And Popeye's sense that this is the place to search for his father proves to be correct.
Is it any good?
Perhaps the best word to describe this film is "eccentric." Popeye is one of those movies that you either love or hate. Director Robert Altman and writer Jules Pfeiffer took their inspiration from the original newspaper comic strips, in which Popeye and the residents of Sweethaven offered commentary on the hard times of the 1930s. The performers do an admirable job of enlivening the characters, but those characters are sometimes so charmless that you wonder why they bothered. Shelly Duvall is especially good at portraying Olive Oyl, though a little of her goes a long way. Robin Williams has Popeye's gait and mumble, but his dialogue seldom rewards the effort it takes to hear it.
Altman put obvious effort and expense into designing the town of Sweethaven, but his trademark style, in which the camera seems to drift aimlessly around, is poorly suited to showing it off. Altman has a similar problem with the songs Harry Nilsson composed for the movie -- they're often lovely, but given the naturalistic style in which they're used, they simply fade away before we can notice them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about remakes and nostalgia. Why make a movie that essentially reproduces a cartoon popular when many of today's parents were children? Do you think it's harder or easier than creating new characters, new themes, new stories? Is there an element of safety in remaking a once-popular cartoon?
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