Thursday, February 21, 2013
Strong to the Finich, like Dennis Kucinich
The opening theme music's a little different! I guess they'd have to rearrange it each time. Lotta work!
Scene: Olive Oyl's Health Farm for Children. Of course, one of them looks like Bimbo or Bosko as a child, but we'll leave that aside for now. The kids seem to be pounding out the "Cha Cha Cha" rhythm on the table, but that'll stop once they see the main course: Olive brings out a big steaming bowl of spinach. I'm thinking they're going to want candy and ice cream instead. Ain't that always the way? To kill some time... I know, but they do that in these things sometimes. Not just Stooge films. To kill some screen time, Olive lets the door hit her where the Good Lord split her, that old omniscient pervert! The bowl of spinach flies into the air. She catches the bowl, but it's empty. A few seconds later, the spinach comes down piecemeal, but she catches all the pieces. A temporary good omen, but it's probably a sign of hard times ahead. She places the bowl on the table. I guess the kids have to split it six ways, as they have no plates of their own.
Close-up of a kid who looks like a young Jackie Cooper. The kid says "What? Spinach again?" And so, the crying begins. Alas, they didn't know how good they had it back then! No e.coli outbreaks, anyway. But the kid does have a good point: it helps to alternate spinach with candy and ice cream. So not only are all six of the kids crying, two of them start an outright revolt, attempting to shove the bowl off the table.
After wiping the dizzy look off her face, Olive tries sternly to get the children to behave. She seems awfully new at this. She should take a page or two from the book of the Old Lady who lives in the Shoe. Olive gets hit in the face with a handful of spinach... twice! Olive starts crying, too. I don't know if this is the kind of thing Popeye can fix... but she's happy to see him, nevertheless.
Again, it's always good to change the structure of things a little bit. We begin the second act with Popeye's theme song rather than the first. If Soderbergh were making this, Popeye would show up in the Third Act singing the song. Popeye's carrying a big box this time. It's a present for the kids. The little brats probably don't deserve it, but it'll take their mind off the spinach for a while...
...could it be? Now that he's got the kids' attention, he unwraps the present to reveal... YES! A FRESH CRATE OF SPINACH! The crying starts anew. Popeye tries to make his case for good nutrition, but it's too late. The crying continues anew. Oh, kids and their lack of logic. They were happy to see Popeye at first, but spinach trumps Popeye, apparently. What did they expect? Do they understand the strong correlation between Popeye and spinach?
Well, to be fair, these kids aren't half as annoying as Popeye's four nephews. God, I hate those four brats for some reason. I'm glad they're usually seen in the non-Fleischer cartoons.
Popeye tries to make the case for spinach. His muscles coil around each other like snakes, but to no avail. It's time for a game-changing demonstration of spinach's awesome power.
Popeye dips into the crate for a fresh can of spinach, and he opens it! I'm so used to this happening when Bluto's beating the s... beating up on Popeye. Popeye gives a handful of spinach not to himself, but to a tree. We see the tree chewing up the spinach... only in a Fleischer cartoon. The tree begins exponential growth on steroids. It's going to be huge because the pavement's not part of the painted background and.. sure enough, the tree roots start rending the very pavement. The tree grows very tall and starts producing fruit: first pears, then pineapples and bananas! So not only does spinach make any environment seem tropical, it turns trees into genetic freaks.
For some reason, the kids are unimpressed. Not big fans of tree fruit either, I guess. Time for demonstration #2. There's a lone chicken in the road. It's about to get crossed by some spinach. Popeye scatters some spinach on the ground. The chicken starts to eat some of it, and finally gets it. The chicken's got these demonic, Will Vinton-type Claymation eyes, but never mind. The chicken gobbles down the rest of the spinach as if it were earwigs, then promptly lays a dozen eggs in a carton, which it picks up and walks away with! Not as impressive as the egg-laying feats of WB's Swooner Crooner, arguably, but still.
Kids? Well, they've stopped crying, anyway, but they've been spending too much time at the theatre, filling their heads with nonsense and dreams of ... ice cream and candy, I guess. "Well, blow me down!" says Popeye. Fortunately, demonstration #3 is on its way: a fanged fighter with boxing gloves. Must be one of those human-bulldog hybrids that Dubya tried to warn us about. We see the dude walking down a street where all the houses on the left side are the same, as are all the trees on the right. Yup, phony 3-D. Is there any greater bane to an animator's existence? "GET OUTTA ME WAY, YA GREAT BIG PALOOKA! I'LL MOW YA DOWN, STEP ASIDE!" says the guy... I think. I can't tell if he's affecting a Scottish or Irish accent. It's slight, anyway. Whoever performed that line was definitely not meant to do this for a living; I think the guy thought he could coast forever on that one performance, but man. What a performance.
Popeye stops the guy on his manliness rampage, and points to his chin. The be-boxing gloved fighter obliges Popeye, and pop! He hits Popeye right on his giant butt-shaped chin. Popeye gently falls down, and noisily slurps up a bit of spinach. Popeye points to his chin again. The nondescript guy with boxing gloves hits Popeye on the chin again, but Popeye doesn't fall this time. Popeye gets hit again and again, thereby proving the supremacy of spinach, and introduces the concept of "Rope a Dope." But where's his parade? Oh, right... (note to self: find YouTube video of Popeye in the Macy's Day Parade.)
Now, here's a plot development that even Seymour Papert would like! One of the kids spots two emaciated cows (that sound like sheep.) Their mouths hover over the ground like a vacuum cleaner on a rug. The kid whistles to the other kids, he picks up a can of spinach, and off they go. The kid breaks the spinach can over a rock, and splits it into two equal halves. He feeds the spinach to the cows. The kid says "Hey! You want this spinach? We don't want it!" None of that gets animated, of course. Boy, those Fleischers were kinda lazy about that! The cows start growing big. But then... they sprout horns and become angry bulls! Seymour Papert would probably like that, too. Beware the hand of spinach, with great power comes great responsibility, all that jazz... oh, right! I should probably get to class.
Back! The sextet of children heads for the nearest tree. Meanwhile, Popeye's still messing around with the palooka, the big palooka. Popeye looks over and sees that he's needed elsewhere. He picks up that flower in the lower right hand corner of the screen, sticks it on the bad guy's chest and knocks him out in one punch. Well, he was a bit worn out from punching Popeye in the chin. Rope-a-dope, I'm telling you! In a rare bit of polikeness, Popeye places a pillow on the ground for the palooka's head to land on... which it does.
Back to the kids, who are still trying to climb the tree, but they're still in the grip of fear and have more trouble climbing that tree than the Stooges have getting through a door. Fortunately, the tree scoops up all the kids and lifts them on high. Trees, animated or real, don't do that nearly often enough. It would certainly change our relationship with lumber if it started happening for real... maybe. The bulls hit the tree at the last second and are down. Popeye comes a'running up, and the bulls hit him, sending him flying high up into the air. The two newly invigorated bulls put their horns together, using it as a trampoline to catch Popeye and throw him back up into the air. Judging from the expressions on their faces, the bulls don't seem to be having much fun. But continue they do.
Eventually, Popeye's had enough of this indignity to his character. Time for that can of spinach he always keeps close to his chest. The kids cheer when they see that! It couldn't have come at a better time, because no sooner does Popeye ingest this latest dose of spinach than the bulls unlock horns and start laughing. There you go! They were having a good time after all, the bastids. Time for Popeye to punch some bulls. One punch apiece seems to do the trick, but Popeye doesn't stop there. Each punch Popeye delivers spins the bull dizzy anew. The kids cheer from high up in the tree. Popeye spins the bulls until he's satisfied, then sends them flying into a nearby house, wrecking one of its sides. Their horns turn to trumpets and play part of "Taps." Only in a Fleischer flick... wait a tic. Did he just slightly demolish Olive's health farm main office? No finesse. It wouldn't surprise me, anyway.
And so, a lesson for Og Mandingo. The kids knock down Popeye on their way down from the tree, and head for the bowl of spinach. Maybe spinach's the greatest salesman in the world! Olive slowly comes out of her funk. Didn't she see Popeye in trouble? Figures. And so, the kids empty the spinach bowl. They're apparently eating it the wrong way at first. But just before the bowl's empty, they hold their last clumps aloft before gobbling them up. At this point, they sprout Popeye-like arms... avec tattoo, no less! I'm surprised that got past the Hays Code. They play the Popeye spinach theme for the kids, and off they go to perform their own feats of spinached-up greatness. The first is my favorite, where the fat German kid runs over to a very very long fence. Üter gives it a mighty punch, and it starts breaking down like dominoes on the right. The kid stands on the part of the fence next to him that's still standing and laughs as it breaks... at least, until the part he's standing on falls down. Olive and Popeye get a kick out of that one. Next: Jackie Cooper punches an apple tree. The tree flies into the air and turns into a rain of fruit crates by the time it hits the ground. See? Spinach is good for industrialization!
Third feat: the tall skinny kid that looks like Alfalfa goes over to a windmill. Using his new found spinach power, he draws in a mighty breath and blows on the windmill. The building that holds the windmill breaks from its foundation and flies away. Take that, Big Bad Wolf!
Any more than three feats would just be gratuitous at this point, apparently. Plus, there's about 25 seconds left. Reminds me of how Dan Aykroyd wanted to have fifty giant monsters in Ghost Busters. He thought it was a video game, see. Now, Nothing but Trouble, on the other hand... he apparently had all the artistic license he could think of! Anyway, the ending is something that even the South Park boys would like: all the kids, lost in their fog of spinached-up gratitude, all jump on the bench that Olive's sitting on, sending her flying into the air. This time, however, Olive gets caught. Usually she hits the ground but gets caught on the first bounce, if memory serves. But this time, Olive lands on top of a spinach-induced human pyramid... or, I guess it's more of a rhombus, rather. The point is, she's fine. As for me, well... this one's just okay. I did like the introduction of the shirtless boxer guy. Worth it if only for that.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan