Tuesday, February 21, 2006

SHUTEYE POPEYE (1952)

I swear that there are morons who go onto IMDB and rate everything they see a "10". Whatever their reasons might be: whether they are bored, have a lot of time on their hands, have it in for either IMDB or ratings systems and want to screw with them, or really are morons who rate everything they see a "10"; whatever, their reasons, they are morons. IMDb combats this rash of the brain-dead with this rule:
IMDb publishes weighted vote averages rather than raw data averages. Various filters are applied to the raw data in order to eliminate and reduce attempts at 'vote stuffing' by individuals more interested in changing the current rating of a movie than giving their true opinion of it.
However, you can go on to the page for just about any movie, even the worst piece of roachshite in the universe, and find a number of people who have deemed that film, either jokingly or sincerely, as a masterpiece. Luckily, the IMDb has their weighted average formula; it helps to keep things a little sane. (If only they had a firmer system in place for their Top 250 of All Time list; I'm not disputing the films on it, merely the number of votes required before a film can be placed upon it, i.e. the bar to be placed on the list should be set a rung or two higher.)

Shuteye Popeye is not the worst piece of roachshite in the universe; it just happens to be the film that finally drove me crazy when I saw that 2 of the 28 people who have actually taken the time to vote for the thing (myself included) had given it a "10". Because there are not a multitude of votes piled up in the 10-hole, I am going to assume that these two 10's were either given a) dishonestly; b) honestly, but in a knee-jerk I-give-everything-a-10 fashion; or c) honestly, but stupidly and/or underinformed. Respect the opinions of others, blah, blah, blah... I know the drill. I do respect your opinion if you are sincere and honest in it, but only if you can keep that same opinion in the face of greater knowledge. Such greater knowledge would involve seeing any other Popeye film made before 1943 (and even many of the Popeyes made by Famous up until about 1948), and then telling me straight-faced (and possibly on a lie detector) that you still believe Shuteye Popeye is a superior cartoon. Because I doubt that you can perform such a feat, and if you can, I feel deeply sorry for you.

[Of course, those two votes could come from #1 Popeye Fan of the World and from #1.5 Popeye Fan of the World, and reeling from years of belief that people have underrated the later oeuvre of their hero, they have taken on a mission to raise the profile of every single Popeye film ever released by Famous, even the really crappy ones like Popeye for President (itself the proud recipient of an amazing five 10 votes out of 33, and reviewed here on the Cel Bloc yesterday). There is nothing to do for these people but trap them in veal boxes, forcefeed them their own offal, and make them watch reruns of Full House for the rest of their natural lives. (This could only take about two weeks, so we might want to drop the punishment to Reba.)]

Apparently, Famous decided to turn Popeye into either Katnip or Jerry, pitting their spinach-popping hero against a tiny mouse. This is actually a fine idea; it certainly breaks the monotony of the Bluto-Popeye rivalry films, though these would continue almost unabated for the next four years. But, even though I bemoan the formulas that Famous famously trapped themselves in, there is one element of the Popeye films that should always be present: Popeye is a hero. I suppose this would leave you to believe that Popeye is something of a villain in this one, but actually he is not; he is practically nothing in this film except a source of endless volcanic snoring. (Some would consider this villainous in and of itself. Quit your whining... no matter what you believe about yourself, everyone freakin' snores...) But, I believe that Popeye is best when he is overcoming some form of overwhelming odds; here he is practically a mere piece of furniture that gets moved around by the mouse, and apart from one moment of spinach-related nonsense that really makes no sense given what has already occurred, the part that Popeye plays could be filled by any character, not even necessarily a known character, but just an everyman snoring the night away and bugging the crap out of a little mouse. By taking away most of Popeye's basic character traits, you have negated the need for the hero to exist, so why make this a Popeye film at all?

Popeye snores. His snoring sucks the drawers of the dresser in and out, causing them to slam in the walls. A mouse asleep in the requisite matchbox mouse bed in a hole in the wall gets annoyed and tries to combat the noise. After a couple of attempts to shut the sailorman up, Popeye kicks the mouse out. The mouse tries to flood Popeye out of the house, which works, and in the best gag in the film, Popeye is woken up by a traffic cop who tickets Popeye for parking his bed against a fire hydrant. Popeye, for some reason, also has a Murphy bed in his home, and goes back to bed, but the mouse slams Popeye into the wall by lifting up the bed. There is a labored and insipid mousetrap gag series, and finally Popeye catches the rodent and kicks him out again, trapping him inside of a garbage can.

However, the can has the remnants of Popeye's spinach laying about its bottom, and the mouse devours these orts and becomes Popeye-strong. This makes little sense, since the mouse has already performed the superrodent feat of pushing a bed with Popeye in it across the room and later slamming the Murphy bed up violently into the wall with Popeye in it, an incredible act for such a tiny creature. Why does he need the spinach? If they had developed the early gags about the mouse's cleverness without having him resort already to unbelievable acts of superrodent strength, the spinach bit might work. But they failed the mouse and the cartoon. So, the mouse gets even stronger and pulls Popeye out of bed, lifts up the wall and slams ol' Squinty inside of it. The mouse crawls into Popeye's bed and begins snoring just as loud as its former occupant, and Popeye is forced to poke his ear lobes creepily into his ears like fingers.

It's not the worst cartoon; it's not even that bad of a cartoon, but certainly not worth a pair of 10's on a ratings board. People, expand your cartoon horizons, and think about what you have just seen, comparing it to every other cartoon that you have witnessed. Judge them against each other, weigh their strengths and weaknesses, and truly think about whether a film is actually good or not.

Of course... Boy Howdy! You might think all cartoons are just terrific, golly gee! I LOVE ANIMATION! WA-HOOO! Let's give all cartoons 10's!!! Wheeeee!

Morons...

Shuteye Popeye (Famous Studios/Paramount, 1952) Dir: Izzy Sparber
Cel Bloc Rating: 5

No comments: