Tag Archives: Robin Williams

Popeye (1980)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: He doesn’t like spinach.

Popeye (Robin Williams) is a sailor who travels to the seaside village of Sweet Haven in search of his long lost father (Ray Walston). It is there that he moves into the upstairs room of the Oyl residence and becomes attracted to their daughter Olive (Shelley Duvall). Olive though is engaged to the gruff Bluto (Paul L. Smith) whose bullying ways is giving Olive second thoughts. When she tries to leave town in order to avoid the impending marriage she meets Popeye and they get into a relationship while also coming upon an orphaned baby that they name Swee’pea (Wesley Ivan Hurt), but Bluto becomes determined to destroy their union by kidnapping the child.

I remember watching the Popeye cartoons growing up and while I was never much of a fan this film version fails to replicate the original storylines. In the cartoons the relationship between Olive and Popeye seemed in constant flux and many times Olive would be ‘stolen away’ by Bluto’s courting and Popeye would have to win her back. Here the confrontations between Bluto and Popeye are played down significantly and there’s only two fight sequences between them and they last for only a few minutes.

The biggest difference though is that here Popeye doesn’t like spinach even though in the cartoons his spinach consumption was the whole reason he got his strength. Apparently when Popeye was introduced in 1929 he got his strength from rubbing the hairs on a magical whiffle hen named Bernice, but modern day audiences equate Popeye with spinach and changing this concept makes it seem like the film is not staying true to form. Kids who enjoyed the cartoons come to the movie expecting the same theme not watching something that’s going to take what they love into a completely different direction. What’s worse is that here there’s no explanation for how Popeye gets his amazing strength, which makes the already loopy storyline even dumber.

Williams gives a great performance, but his presence gets drowned out by the introduction of too many other characters including Paul Dooley as Wimpy who almost seems to have more screen time. Watching Walston play an older version of Popeye as the father is not funny, but instead incredibly annoying and again only helps to overshadow Williams’ great work.

I originally thought the casting of Duvall was inspired as I don’t think there’s any other actress living or dead who shares the physical traits of the Olive Oyl character quite as well as Duvall and in fact she admitted in interviews that she was nicknamed Olive Oyl by the school kids growing up. However, she overplays Olive’s nervous mannerisms which become repetitive and irritating while her attempts at singing are beyond bad.

The town of Sweet Haven, which took seven months to construct and consisted of 19 buildings built off the cost of Malta that still stands today, are the film’s strongest element, but everything else from its unfocused script evaporates into a mass sea of boredom. Robert Altman, who can be a great director at times, was the wrong choice for this type of production. He excels at doing existential adult dramas not kiddie flicks and children watching this thing will most assuredly become bored and the adults will too.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: December 12, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 54Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Altman

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Club Paradise (1986)

club paradise

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Life on the beach.

When firemen Jack Moniker (Robin Williams) is able to collect a large insurance settlement after being injured while on the job he decides to retire and move to Jamaica. There he meets Ernest (Jimmy Cliff) who owns a rundown resort and has gotten far behind on his taxes and now being harassed by the Island’s Prime Minister (Adolph Caesar) for payment. Jack decides to help his friend by fixing up the place until it becomes a snazzy destination that attracts people from all over. Soon a bunch of tourists, many of them on the eccentric side, are flocking to stay there, but Jack finds it hard to keep up with their demands while also battling Voit (Brian Doyle-Murray) a competing resort owner who feels Jack is infringing on his territory.

The film starts out pleasing enough. Cliff’s reggae songs are great and the island scenery, which was shot on-location in Port Antonio, Jamaica is soothing to the eye and spirit. Unfortunately the laughs are sporadic and the plotline minimal. Part of the problem is that it doesn’t stay focused on the Jack character. The story jumps completely past him buying the resort and rebuilding it and instead goes directly to the eccentric guests and their cartoonish behavior and dilemmas. The script is more like a patchwork of goofy skit-like ideas than a movie and the cast is made up almost entirely from the stars of the first couple of seasons of SCTV.

Williams is much more subdued here, which is nice to a degree as sometimes he can get a bit too hyper, but he is also not as funny. Peter O’Toole is good when he’s seen, but his screen time is so limited I was surprised that he even took the part as it’s a slap-in-the-face role for an actor of his stature.

The supporting cast is too hammy. Eugene Levy and Rick Moranis are mildly amusing as two clueless dweebs trying desperately to hit on some of the hot chicks, but when their story thread deviates to Moranis going on a surfboard that takes him on a 16 hour ride out to sea, it gets stupid. Andrea Martin comes off best and has a few enjoyable moments including most notably her battle with an overpowering shower.

Even a comedy needs some character development and this film, which boasts having 6 writers to its screenplay, has none. Too much emphasis is put on throwing in any type of joke or humor that it can much of which is on  a childish, preadolescent level that will bore and annoy most adults.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: July 11, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Harold Ramis

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989)

adventures of baron 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Where fantasy meets silliness.

A touring stage company in some unnamed European city during the 18th century is putting on a production of fictional character Baron Munchausen’s fanciful life when it gets interrupted by an elderly man (John Neville) insisting that he is the real Baron and who then takes center stage to narrate his adventures from his perspective. Unfortunately an army of Turks are also invading the city at the same time, which forces him to escape via a hot air balloon made of women’s undergarments.  With him is a young stowaway named Sally (Sarah Polley) and together they try to round up a group of elite men with unique abilities, which they will use to team up against the Turks and hopefully win back the city while also meeting many odd characters and going through a myriad of zany, mystical scenarios.

The film’s dazzling production ran 24 million over budget only to then bomb at the box office but the intoxicating special effects almost make it worth it while it also remains kid friendly with action sequences that are pleasantly cartoonish and innuendos that are too subtle for them to catch. The balloon made of women’s underwear is great and as well as watching the trio get swallowed up by a giant sea monster whose head resembles that of an island. I also liked the angel of death scenes and wished those had been played up more. Even the little things like seeing a tiny grain of sand slither its way down the thin glass tube of an hourglass is fun. The colorful sets are dazzling and the whole thing gets saturated with a visual flair that is quite impressive.

Although she has complained in subsequent interviews about her experience working in this film and dealing with director Terry Gilliam Polley’s presence adds a lot with a performance that is completely on-target the whole way. She’s one of those child characters that is cute without it being forced, which is a major feat in itself. Robin Williams is hilarious as a giant floating head in a part that was intended for Sean Connery who I don’t think would have done it half as well.  I also got a real kick out of Oliver Reed as a jealous god and Uma Thurman as his stunning wife Venus, which is technically her film debut, but due to budget delays this came out after two of her other films had already released.

The only real complaint about the movie is the plot or lack thereof. I loved the creativity, but after a while it starts to become dizzying and senseless. Gilliam’s other films like Time Bandits, which like this movie is part of his trilogy of imagination, at least had a discernable story that sucked you in and in Brazil it made great satirical jabs at modern day society, but here we get none of that. It becomes silly and surreal for no reason, which when factored in with its giant production cost and manpower turns it into a supremely wasted effort. Don’t get me wrong it’s amusing and engaging enough to be entertaining, but when it’s all over it is also quite forgettable.

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 10, 1989

Runtime: 2Hours 6Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Terry Gilliam

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

The Survivors (1983)

survivors 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Seeking refuge with vigilantes

Sonny (Walter Matthau) and Donald (Robin Williams) are a mismatched pair who inadvertently become involved with bad guy Jack (Jerry Reed) after witnessing him holding up a restaurant. Donald seeks protection by joining a radical militia group while Sonny chases after him in an attempt to get him out of it.

The story certainly has the foundation for good potent satire. It hits on the serious issue of average citizen vigilantes who become more fanatical and dangerous than the criminals themselves. It peaks with a scene in a gun shop were a little old lady packs herself with some really big guns. Unfortunately it becomes soft and aimless after that and the result is a clumsy comedy with too much nonsense thrown in for cheap laughs.

There is also too many shifts in allegiances here, which makes it all implausible. First Donald is on the run from Jack and even tells him off in a funny moment over the telephone. Then before you know it they are working together and going against the fanatical militia group that at one time Donald was really into. The final denouncement involving the true allegiance of the militia group’s leader is also absurd.

There are some good laughs, but they are scattered haphazardly throughout. The best stuff comes from Williams. He seems a little out of place at first playing the part of the henpecked businessman, but he quickly comes into his own. His shootout with Reed is the real topper and Matthau is as always consistently amusing.

The female cast is also interesting. Kristen Vigard is a nice addition as Matthau’s teen daughter. She is pretty and smart, but still quite sweet. Her relaxed and casual responses to things are a nice contrast to the frantic behaving adults. Annie McEnroe as Williams’ wife is also good only because of her facial expressions which never allow you to know what she is really thinking or feeling.

The best line comes from hit-man Reed: “I was raised a strict Southern Baptist and I place a high value on human life… at least $20,000.”

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: June 22, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: Michael Ritchie

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Cadillac Man (1990)

cadillac man2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Car salesman versus gunman.

A jilted husband (Tim Robbins) goes off the deep end and with rifle in hand takes over a car dealership where he threatens to kill everybody inside. It’s up to Joey (Robin Williams) a quick-on-his-feet car salesman to use his ‘people skills’ to get everyone out of the predicament.

Outside of a funny opening funeral procession bit, the first thirty minutes are pretty dull. Too much time is spent on Joey’s interactions with friends and family members that are not funny or interesting. In fact the majority of the film seems more like a drama dealing with the daily stresses of life than it does a comedy. When the gunman first breaks into the dealership it is quite intense and even a bit horrific. The film does eventually catch its stride, but it all seems kind of transparent by the end. There is nothing to really distinguish this film from all the rest, which probably explains why it has pretty much been ignored. In many ways it seems very similar to Dog Day Afternoon.

However, I did like that everything is kept on a realistic and plausible level with dialogue and characters that are quite believable. Robbins makes for an engaging gunman and once the film settles into the hostage crisis there are a few genuinely funny moments. Fran Drescher’s pet poodle is memorable and one of the best pet performers I’ve seen.

If you are looking for a passable time-filler then this film has enough comedy and good moments to make it worth it, but it’s nothing more than that. Williams is energetic as always and it’s interesting to see him juggle both a comedy and drama here. It is also worth catching just to see Robbins in his breakout role.

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My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 18, 1990

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Roger Donaldson

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD