Written By: François-Noël Vanasse
This is a difficult time. The world is riddled with anxiety, fear, and a deadly disease that has radically interrupted the daily life of nearly everything and everyone. So, for the whole month of April, The Porkchop Express presents: THE QUARANTINE STREAM, a 30 day series designed to help shine a light on a film that is worthy of your time and might very well be the distraction you need. In an effort to keep it fresh, we will be alternating between the big three services (Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu) and trying to keep the choices as varied as possible.
For Day Twenty-Eight, revisit this under-seen comedy featuring the late, great Robin Williams. Now available on Netflix.
Most people have probably never heard of Popeye or have heard that it’s bad. Frankly, it’s rough around the edges, but I feel it has plenty to keep modern audiences interested. First of all the troubled production featured the construction of an entire village and then some in Malta to be the town of Sweethaven. Popeye and company come from comic strips by E. C. Segar and the film features super strength and magic powers making this easily a weird forgotten superhero movie. For an added bonus, as a musical the director insisted on having the cast sing on set. Beating Tom Hooper to the punch by over thirty years. Popeye is hardly one of the great films. Robin Williams is reasonably endearing as the titular sailor man. Shelly Duvall disappears into Olive Oyl to such a degree that the only reasonable comparison of such a match made in heaven between character and actor is J. K. Simmons’ turn as minor Spider-Man nemesis J. Jonah Jameson. The songs in this musical didn’t really have any legs. He Needs Me maybe deserves a mention for being repurposed in PTA’s Punch-Drunk Love (2002). But that’s about it. I think Popeye would have benefitted from a much different director than Robert Altman whose whirlwind and pseudo pre-mumblecore aesthetics are ill-suited to a kids film about eating vegetables and punching people. But despite the mess and the nonsense this film is memorable as heck. It deserves a revival on streaming services if only because the addition of subtitles is an absolute godsend for the insane incomprehensible dialogue throughout. Plus this is the only Popeye movie we’ve ever gotten. I think the world deserves to not let some of these icons slowly drift away from public consciousness. In a nostalgia-driven age the only glimpse we’ve gotten of the Sailor Man is a minute of animation from 2016 and to that I say “Phooey!”.