POPEYE -- AMC Carrollton, AMC Skyline, Flower Twins, Jerry Lewis Cinema, K-B MacArthur, NTI Tysons Center, NTI White Flint, Roth's Tysons Center, NTI White Flint, Roth's Montgomery, Springfield Mall and Towncenter Sterling.

The Hollywood holiday blitz is one of the more recent Christmas traditions. This year the celluloid studios sent us an even dozen -- the Twelve Flicks of Christmas, you might say -- but two of them arrived (as some Christmas cards do) just too late to respond to.

Good news for people who are related to children:

"Popeye," the picture they are going to make you take them to over the holidays, is bearable for adults. An adult in the right mood might even thank the child for having been allowed to come along.

Yes, it's another comic-strip movie, but it has, in addition to the cheerful energy that gave "Superman" such general appeal, a screenplay by the old master of the grown-up comic strip, Jules Feiffer. This means that there are puns and other verbal hijinks, as well as pows and pratfalls.

"Even an orphan needs a father and a mother," sighs Popeye, as he adopts the baby he names Swee'pea. When his girl friend, Olive Oyl, objects to the name, he inquires, "You want me to call him Baby Oyl?" Then there is a quick chase through a "house of ill repukes," where he is warned to be careful not to touch anythng "or you'll get venerable disease."

Considering how firmly the image of Popeye is fixed in the minds of all spinach-bred Americans, it's daring of the film to open by showing the character in its familiar cartoon form. But Robin Williams so utterly captures the Popeye idea as to justify this, and Shelley Duvall is such a perfect Olive Oyl that it will always be difficult to imagine her impersonating a human being.

You may also have heard that a star was born for this picture, and not too long before production started. In an inspired piece of nepotism, director Robert Altman cast his 10-month-old grandson, Wesley Ivan Hurt, as Swee'pea, and the performance, with its range of sardonic to winning looks, is the triumph of Hurt's career.

Now there's a kid who's not going to have trouble getting his relatives to take him to the movies again.