Robert Altman's busy, detailed mise-en-scene, flattened cartoon-style through space-compacting long lenses, does capture some of the frenetic atmosphere of the Fleischer cartoons, but it tends to crowd out, and neutralize, the story values. The plotting of this 1980 feature—outsider in a hostile environment—is personal to Altman, though few of the feelings survive the clutter: it looks like a remake of McCabe and Mrs. Miller stripped of deep commitment. Robin Williams is entertaining as Popeye, in a performance based entirely on Jack Mercer's brilliant voice characterization in the original cartoons; as Olive Oyl, Shelley Duvall can't bring her squashed naturalness to the proper level of stylization—she seems miscast in the role she was born to play. With Ray Walston and Paul Dooley. 114 min.
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