POPEYE MEETS RIP VAN WINKLE (1941) – Not exactly an historic occasion

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There appears to have been, Superman-style, some perverse bizarro world in which Dave and Max Fleischer were told, “That Popeye Meets William Tell [1940] cartoon of yours was a riot. How about a sequel? And be sure to stick in another non sequitor Marx Brothers gag, okay?”

(For those who care, this cartoon features a “cameo” by Chico Marx. The most probable reason for this, and the earlier cartoon’s nod to Groucho, is that Fleischer animator Shamus Culhane was married to Chico’s daughter Maxine, so apparently Culhane felt compelled to make cutesy show-biz nods to his famous in-laws. Click here to go to the Internet Movie Database’s scorching critique of Culhane’s live-action short Showdown at Ulcer Gulch [1956], in which Culhane pressured Groucho and Chico to make nervous cameo appearances.)

Popeye happens upon infamous sleep-king Rip Van Winkle being evicted from his apartment for failure to pay 20 years’ worth of rent. Popeye feels sorry for the guy and decides to take him in and protect him. That’s about all the story there is, except for a bizarre subplot about bowling that features more of the Fleischers’ Gulliver’s Travels midgets.

Unlike the color “specials” in which Popeye interacts with thought-out storybook characters, there’s no compelling reason for this cartoon’s existence. Rip could have been any old homeless sleeper from the way he’s characterized here. I rate this cartoon a half-star about William Tell solely because of the animation quality and a couple of chuckle-worthy gags, but the cartoon hardly qualifies for inclusion in the National Film Registry.

On a rating scale of 1 to 4 spinach cans, I give this cartoon: CanCanHalf

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