Coming home on blu-ray from Paramount Pictures for the first time is the Robin Williams film, Popeye. This one is a bit of an odd creature, it looks gorgeous, has a fantastic cast, beautifully crafted sets, but a few things that make you raise your eyebrows.
For instance, something based on a comic book, and probably intended to be family oriented, it was co-produced by Paramount and Disney, you wouldn’t peg Robert Altman as your first choice as a director. And yet there he is.
Then there’s the musical aspect of the film. Of course it has songs! And again, it’s an odd choice. Not a bad choice, just an odd one… Harry Nilsson.
The cast is pretty much this side of perfection, bringing the classic characters of Sweethaven to life, Robin Williams leads the way as Popeye, Ray Walston plays his missing father, Shelley Duvall plays Olive Oyl, Paul Dooley plays the burger-obsessed Wimpy, Paul L. Smith as Bluto, and Donald Moffat as The Taxman.
But the story, Altman’s directorial style, and the not quite fitting musical set pieces hold the film back. Williams is giving it his all, and honestly, it’s worth it for his performance alone, and Duvall is Oyl to a t, though she has a horrid singing voice. Just none of it seems to click, even with the stunning sets and location work in Malta.
The blu-ray has cleaned up the original film print, and the images fairly pop off the screen, and it also includes some noteworthy extras, including a look back at the making of the film with previously recorded interviews with both Williams, and Altman.
There’s a look at the film’s premiere, a huge event packed with countless stars of the late 70s, and a feature that lets you just play the musical numbers from the film.
People recall this film being a flop, it cost twenty million, but made sixty million, so while not a blockbuster by anyone’s definition, it definitely made its money back.
This one is a curiosity, and for that reason alone I think it’s worth picking up on blu. And, it’s Robin Williams!
It’s just so damned fascinating. From the not quite comic strip feel, to the performers in the film that performed countless physical gags, to the cinematography to those songs…
Nothing about it should have worked, yet Williams brings such a charisma so that the film, well doesn’t necessarily gel, but it makes it watchable. Not a ringing endorsement to be sure, but it’s just a fascinating watch.
Popeye, which is forty years old this year, comes home on blu-ray from Paramount Canada today!