Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

US movie (1980). Paramount/Disney. Pr Robert Evans. Exec pr C O Erickson. Dir Robert Altman. Spfx Allen Hall. Screenplay Jules Feiffer. Based on the characters created by E C Segar. Starring Paul Dooley (Wimpy), Shelley Duvall (Olive Oyl), Wesley Ivan Hurt (Swee'Pea), Donald Moffat (Taxman), Paul L Smith (Bluto), Ray Walston (Poopdeck Pappy), Robin Williams (Popeye). Voice actor Jack Mercer (Popeye in prologue animated by Hanna-Barbera). 114 mins. Colour.

Searching the Seven Seas for his long-lost Pappy, the spinach-loathing Popeye comes to Sweethaven, a coastal community run as a tax-ridden dictatorship by the never-seen Commodore and his bullying sidekick Bluto. Popeye takes lodgings at the Oyls; the daughter, Olive, is engaged to Bluto. However, as she and the outsider go towards her engagement party they trip over baby Swee'Pea, abandoned like Popeye himself once was; their late arrival together is enough to convince a wrathful Bluto to break off the engagement. Swee'Pea is found to be precognitive (> Talents); almost immediately Wimpy steals the infant to sell to Bluto, who, now rebelling against his master, plans to use Swee'Pea's powers to track down the Commodore's treasure. Popeye, following, discovers the trussed-up, misanthropic old man is his father; together they and most of the cast pursue Bluto and the kidnapped Swee'Pea and Olive to Scab Island. Bluto proceeds to thrash Popeye; a giant octopus threatens infant and Olive; Pappy's treasure turns out to be mementoes of Popeye's infancy; and in a fit of final – and suicidal – sadism Bluto forces Popeye to swallow a can of spinach. Villain and octopus disposed of, Olive and Popeye declare undying love.

The decision to turn the Comics and animated shorts into a full-length comedy musical directed by Altman was not, perhaps, a felicitous one. The attempts to make live actors behave physically as if animated figures have some success, generally where they rely on the actors' skills rather than on spfx. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.