Saturday, June 01, 2013
Spinach Can Wait
Zoom in on an oddly-shaped football stadium. It's almost shaped like a football cut in half, I dare say! Cut to the audience cheering. Popeye and Olive have great seats, right in front. At least, it'll make it easy for Popeye when he starts playing. For now, Popeye is unimpressed, while Olive is cheering away.
And now, here comes the "home team," led onto the field by Bluto, of course. And he's followed by 14 beefy guys as big as he is! Good Lord. Where do they come from? Probably the Midwest. Olive calls to Bluto, and Bluto takes a little time out to flirt with Olive. Popeye finally has a reason to pay attention, and he tries to push Bluto away. Bluto throws the football at Popeye's head. It bounces off Popeye's head and back into Bluto's hand. Oh, the humiliation. Olive's wearing a collegiate fur coat; must be cold out! Bluto gives Popeye a good shove and helps Olive out of the stands and onto the field proper. Meanwhile, Popeye has to struggle to get a chair off his head. He eventually does. Popeye stands up, notices that Olive's gone, and his pipe promptly empties its putrid contents right there in the stands. I think Olive made the right choice, what do you think?
It gets worse. Now Popeye can't find Olive, so he calls to her. Where did Olive go? Cut to the home team huddling on the field. The huddle opens up to reveal Olive in the middle of it. She's now dressed in a cheerleader's outfit, and she tries to lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of the song "You Gotta Be a Football Hero." Sadly, she seems to be the only one singing. Popeye plays staccato notes on his pipe and, as is usually the case, it signifies a deep dissatisfaction with what things have become. After Olive finishes her song, Popeye's pipe twirls and he says ... I think he says "I takes that from no woman!" Popeye's feeling a little underappreciated right now.
Time for the visiting team to make their debut. They're a sad collection of scrawny guys, led by J. Wellington Wimpy, eating a burger as usual. Note the concession stand on the field, lol. So not only is the visiting team outnumbered 14 to 11, they're outnumbered in sheer size by at least three to one! Inspired, Popeye jumps onto the field and runs past Olive to register to be in the game. Well, it was a simpler time in the '30s, and these registrations were processed a lot more quickly back then.
Next scene: cross-fade to the visiting team's huddle, where Popeye is revealed at the center of it. They've at least got their game faces on, and Popeye has become the proverbial 11th man... I hate to jump right to the moral of the story, but it seems to be that it's not always the right thing to do to support your home team, especially if they're a bunch of homewrecking, overweight tubs of... anyway, Olive leads a pro-Bluto cheer, which begat Chris Van Allsburg's The Z was Zapped. Popeye looks on with disgust, blows his pipe twice, then says "Let's go!" like Nelson Muntz. Olive finally realizes that Popeye's on the opposing team and gets worried. "Who let that guy in here?" says Bluto... something like that. And as YouTube's srw6666 points out, Bluto's mouth says "It's Popeye!" even though it's Olive's voice. But, to be fair, Olive's head is turned away from the "camera" so maybe they're both saying the line together. Actors do that sometimes. For example, you know that clip of the Gap Girls that they always show where Chris Farley grabs David Spade's throat and bellows "LAY OFF MAN, I'M STARVING!" ? Spade mouths the "I'm starving" part as well. An even more obscure example: I think it was on the delightful Mad About You show. There's a part where Carroll O'Connor and Carol Burnett are sitting at a table. And then, all of a sudden, Carol screams "This is a NIGHTMARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" If you watch Carroll's... I mean, O'Connor's mouth, he mouths the word "nightmare" at the same time Burnett screams. That's what you get when everyone knows the same script. But back to the Popeye cartoon, for once.
Bluto's troops head for the field, trampling Olive in the process. Olive hasn't had enough yet, obviously. And so, the teams line up on the field. The referee blows the whistle, but takes the same big inhale before doing so that Popeye often does.
Bluto's team kicks the ball to Popeye's team. Well, there's one thing in Popeye's favor at this point: he may be outnumbered and know nothing about football, but Bluto's team's got terrible shoes. And, as earlier in the stands, Popeye catches the football with his face, but this time with his hands. Popeye takes off. Next scene: Popeye's shuffling down the field. Lol. But because he's running in a straight line, it makes him an easy target, and he's quickly tackled by several members of Bluto's team... maybe all of them, actually! It should be noted here that the animation isn't actually a Fleischer 3D stereoscopic background, but a simple effect of lines drawn to look 3D... I say simple, but who knows how many animators slaved away on it. Here's an example of more slave work from the Looney Tunes cartoon they call Fox Pop. Why, I bet even PETA might like that one!
Anyway, back to the game. Bluto's team disperses... but where's Popeye? As it turns out, he was so flattened by the home team that the ground left no trace of him whatsoever. It's all Popeye can do to dig himself out and return to the earth's surface in an unconscious state. Wimpy seems to run to Popeye's aid, lol. Sorry... SPOILER ALERT.
Slow wipe to next scene. Now Bluto's team has the ball. At the huddle, Bluto's players are revving themselves up with their fists. Bluto, the quarterback, gets the ball and charges forward. Bluto's players all punch the visiting team's players, who all fall unconscious to the ground. There's still some players left on the visiting team to be slugged, however, and Bluto promptly takes care of them... is the quarterback allowed to do that? Hey, the same 2.5D animation in reverse! Kewl. Popeye's revving himself up at the other end of the field, preparing to take on Bluto... actually, he looks like he's getting ready to wrestle Bluto in the ring. Bluto quickly sends Popeye flying and... well, this one I'm not going to spoil. Needles to say, it doesn't end well for Popeye who ends up getting repeatedly punched in the face by Bluto. Olive cheers, the turncoat... just checked the instant replay, and apparently Bluto was using his elbows. So, that's okay! Olive cheers, and then we see a mountain of wriggling humanity in the middle of the field... but wait! What's this? Popeye emerges from the wreckage and heads down the field with something under his arm! You could be cynical and guess that it's probably not exactly the football... and then, Popeye gets tackled again. I don't know how much more of this abuse he can take.
And then... Popeye's on the move again! He's a quick learner, anyhow, and he's able to not get tackled so easily this time as he heads down the field again, doing that same stupid run of his. And then... POW! Oh yeah. He gets tackled again. Bluto steps on Popeye's head as he gets up, of course. Wimpy makes a second appearance much like he did earlier, only faster. Dayamn! Did you see that fat boy run?
Popeye picks himself up off the field again. He's almost at the breaking point, you see. Next scene: no cross-fade to the next down. Popeye's made a full recovery and is getting ready to hike. Bluto's thugs are revving up their fists again and... WHAM! Oh, that was dirty pool. But the audience nor the referees seem to care. Oh, it's spinach time.
Hmmm!!... I'm sorry, I mean Hmm! No red wavy lines under 'hmm,' you see. Anyway, you know what I just realized? No scoreboard! There's that other Popeye short where he and Bluto are playing football as kids, and at this point in that game the score was, like, 42 to 0, something like that, but Popeye was of course single-handedly able to cover the spread once he ate his performance-enhancing spinach. No such drama in this one! I'll bet they got complaints.
Anyway, Bluto's players have beaten Popeye's players with hunks of pipe, and piled on top of them for good measure. And even though Popeye seemed to be away from the carnage on the front line, safe in his position as quarterback, he ends up under the pile of bodies. He reaches for his spinach and the magic begins in proper. "Gimme that thing," he mumbles to himself.
And so, having eaten the spinach, what kind of transformation will happen? Unfortunately for Popeye's team, he's unable to share the wealth that spinach brings to him, and Popeye ends up surrounded by a team of about eleven "ghost Popeyes," in uniform, ready to kick some ass. Popeye doesn't even wait for the whistle. The ass-kicking just begins. Popeye runs straight into a group of about eight of Bluto's men. And as big as they are, they don't stand the snowball's chance. Popeye ends up trailing four of Bluto's men behind him like turlet paper stuck to his shoe! He however does eventually grow weary of carrying them, and flicks them away to continue his march toward the goal.
And now, post-spinach, Popeye's finally doing some more serious running, and not just skipping merrily along towards the goalposts. But Popeye is a multi-tasker and, not only does he continue running, but he's also able to swing his ass around and push aside Bluto's men who would otherwise tackle him. Now he's finally behaving like a truly elastic cartoon character should! And he's got a song in his heart as he does it. Back to Olive, who's finally ready to change her loyalties. Sure, it'll be a little bit harder to spell out Popeye's name, but doesn't that mean that it's all the more worth it? I think so. I know that's a controversial stance, but hey, that's what blogs are all about.
Back to Popeye, who's still running, but is now switching the football from his right hand to his left, then back again. Is that a legal move? The refs don't seem to care.
And now, for some blatant tension in the plot. Popeye stops at the five yard line and gracefully sets the ball down. That's yer old fashioned showboating right there for ya. Someone in the audience yells, "HEY! YOU'RE NOT OVER THE GOAL LINE!" Sorry about shouting. Realizing his misstep, Popeye bends over to pick up the ball and... yup, he gets piled upon. Is this the end of the game as we know it? Did Popeye eat that spinach for nothing? Should he have actually known how to play the game before volunteering? So many questions...
...but then, just like the island of kryptonite rising in 2006's Superman Returns, ... am I the only one who remembers? Probably. ... the massive pile of beefy humanity on top of Popeye slowly rises, and Popeye walks the lot of them over to the goal. He sets the ball down and lowers the pile of bodies back down upon himself. Done like a true movie hero, with class and brains/brawn. And no guns! Only the bad guys use guns.
Final scene: the crowd is holding Popeye aloft... sorry, wrong link. Popeye's being carried by the crowd. Olive writes a message on a football next to her and kicks it over to Popeye. And, once again, it bounces off Popeye's head into his arms. It says "I love U.... Olive." Aww, how sweet. Popeye sings Betty Boop's theme song and blows his pipe... whuh? A fitting tribute, seeing as how this is one of William Costello's last Popeye shorts.
Final score: Popeye 6, Bluto 0?
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan