It arrived, T and I sat down to watch it tonight, and we turned it off less than half-way through. Maybe it's just not aging well, maybe our modern attention span is to blame, but we were both finding it rather dull. The dialog was muddy and the characters kept interrupting each other, so it was often impossible to understand what was going on. The humor has not aged well -- between us we laughed maybe four or five times in forty-five minutes. The characters were barely drawn and the film was showing no signs of settling down into a plot; it felt more like a collection of vaguely connected vignettes, which could well be due to the Robert Altman direction. Sometimes that works for me (The Player, Gosford Park), but in this case it just wasn't coming together.
It was something seeing that particular crew of actors as they appeared over 30 years ago. I kept thinking that Donald Sutherland had to be his son. I didn't recognize Tom Skerritt or Robert Duvall despite noticing their names in the credits, and I probably wouldn't have recognized Rene Aberjenous if I hadn't caught his name in the list. Rene in particular seems so young as the naive Father Mulchahy. Of course, it's hard to think of any of these actors as the characters they are playing, because I associate the characters so strongly with their TV counterparts. Henry Blake isn't short, dark, and nebbishy! When did Ross and Monica's dad become a surgeon and why is he serving in Korea? It's all rather jarring. It would probably have been easy to get past all that if the film were entertaining, but it's just not.
All that said, I still feel like I ought to finish it. It is a classic, after all. Then again, should watching a non-documentary film feel like eating your vegetables?