It's a shambling mess, not Altman at his height, but surprisingly faithful and devious underneath.
By Tym Stevens
E.C. Segar ambled through a decade of his comic strip "Thimble Theatre" (1919), which weaved between the slapstick antics of "Barney Google" and the surreal bent of "Krazy Kat", until a crusty-pug mariner showed up to swipe the boards. In 1929, Popeye's debut unleashed the floodgates of cartoons, comics, and commercials. The saltdog of absurdist ultraviolence also sired sideways such concepts as the word Jeep, the crusty surrealism of Robert Crumb, and Capt. Strong in Superman comics.
With the mega-success of the Max Fleisher cartoons, Popeye defined himself with the advent of sound, all cackled asides and suspect mumbles. Much of the Segar funkiness dissolved by the Jet Age flicks into sanitized turbo farce. Mindful of this, the dissident auteur Robert Altman responded to the majestic gloss of Superman (1978) with this wilfull evocation of the funky Thimble Theatre roots. Robin Williams immersed himself in this release from his Mork persona and Shelley Duval was Olive Oyl incarnate. Mainstream fans found it choppy waters, but Altman and Segar fans were sailing smooth.