Flubber

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Professor Philip Brainard (Robin Williams) of Medfield College is developing a new energy source, in an attempt to raise enough money to save the college from closure. His preoccupancy with his research distracts him from his fiancée and the college president Sara Jean Reynolds (Marcia Gay Harden); he has missed two weddings in the past as a result of this, much to the anger of Sara. On the day of the third attempted wedding, Philip is approached by his former partner Wilson Croft (Christopher McDonald), who has profited from ideas he has stolen from the chemist and now desires to steal Sara from Philip and make her his wife, which he declares directly to Philip. Before he can make it to the wedding, his latest experiment shows fast development, forcing him to miss another wedding. The resulting substance created from the experiment is a green goo that increases in speed as it bounces and proves to be difficult to control, wreaking havoc on the neighborhood before the professor finally manages to capture it. Weebo (voiced by Jodi Benson), Philip’s hovering robot assistant, classifies the substance as “flying rubber”, leading Philip to christen it as “Flubber”.

Philip continues to work on Flubber into the early morning, looking to stabilize the rubber’s movement as opposed to stimulation. Philip’s watch alarm goes off at 6 a.m. (set wrong) and Weebo informs him that he has missed the third wedding. Philip goes to Sara’s office and unsuccessfully attempts to explain the situation to her. Meanwhile, Medfield College sponsor Chester Hoenicker (Raymond J. Barry) is unhappy that Philip failed his son Bennett (Wil Wheaton) in chemistry class. That night, Hoenicker sends his two security guards Smith (Clancy Brown) and Wesson (Ted Levine) to Philip’s house in an attempt to persuade Philip into giving Bennett a better grade. However, Philip is too busy testing the Flubber to even notice them and suddenly knocks them out unconscious with a Flubber-coated golf ball and bowling ball. He uses Flubber to give his vintage Ford Thunderbird flight. During a test run, he discovers Wilson making the moves on Sara. Afterwards, Weebo attempts to confess her love of Philip, only to be shrugged off as a computer. In response, she secretly creates a holographic human version of herself named Sylvia (Leslie Stefanson) in hopes of winning him over. Before Weebo can make out with Philip in this form as he sleeps, Philip awakens with another idea for Flubber. He enters an empty basketball arena and tests the effects of Flubber on a basketball. Later, he gives Flubber-padded shoes to the unskilled Medfield basketball team to increase their abilities.

Back in Philip’s home, a spiteful Weebo unleashes Flubber from his case, allowing him to dance around the house and cause general mayhem. After the close but successful basketball game, Philip’s attempt to win Sara back into his favor fails. Philip dumps all of his emotional baggage onto Weebo, saying his absent-mindedness is due to his love of Sara. Weebo records Philip’s ramblings and shows the footage to Sara, who then reconciles with Philip. Philip demonstrates Flubber’s abilities to Sara and they discuss how it can be used for profit. However, Hoenicker discovers Flubber’s existence and sends Smith and Wesson to infiltrate Philip’s house and steal Flubber. Weebo attempts to fend off the henchmen, only to be struck down by Smith with a baseball bat. Philip and Sara return home and find Rover (Philip’s house-robot) cleaning up, Flubber gone and Weebo destroyed. Later, Philip discovers that Weebo had downloaded back-up data of herself onto his computer in the event of her destruction, as well as a video recording of Weebo’s hologram professing her love for him.

Philip and Sara confront Hoenicker and try to retrieve Flubber, only to discover that Wilson is allied with the millionaire. After a battle, Philip and Sara defeat Wilson, Bennett, Hoenicker and his henchmen, get Flubber back, raise enough money to save the college and finally have a successful marriage, along with Flubber and the “daughter” of Weebo, called Weebette. The film ends with the family heading to Hawaii in Philip’s car.

REVIEW:

I’m not sure how many of you can remember this, but back in the late 80s/early 90s on Sunday nights ABC (or one of the other networks) would show movies suitable for family viewing. This eventually turned into Disney movies, of course, but one of the films I remember seeing was The Absent Minded Professor (starring Harry Anderson, of Night Court fame, not the original). Flubber is the big screen adaptation of this film starring Robin Williams and with a bigger budget. Do the extra $$$ help make this a viable viewing option?

What is this about?

On the verge of losing his girlfriend and his job, a scatterbrained college professor accidentally invents a bouncy material called Flubber.

What did I like?

Innocence. Remember those days when families could sit around and watch a movie together without getting uncomfortable because of certain themes/topics, situations, language, etc. that was included in the film? Well, this is a bit of a throwback to those days. As a matter of fact, if not for some one scene of potty humor, this could very well have been rated G. When was the last time anything was rated G, come to think of it.

Scum and villainy. In old movies and cartoons, you can usually tell the villains. Automatic indicators tend to be, wearing black, polar opposite of the hero, twirling mustache, etc. Well, such characteristics have long since gone away and when used today result in critics and audiences referring to the villains as “cartoonish”. The villain in the film is a rich guy who wants to shut down the college and has his henchmen steal the flubber, I swear this guy might just needed to have the swiveling chair and some death traps to perfectly fit the stereotype of rich villain but, for this film, it works. Don’t ask me how, but it does.

Mambo. I’m not going to deny that the special effects since this was released in 1997 have become a tad dated, but one cannot help but be impressed with the Flubber mambo scene. The movement and formations in time with the exciting Latin music make for perhaps the best scene in the film. The animators really took care to make sure these balls of goop had enough personality to put on an elaborate dance scene that, while totally random, was extremely entertaining.

What didn’t I like?

Snot. Staying on the topic of Flubber, I have to mention the way it looks. Who had the brilliant idea to make it look like a ball of snot? Seriously?!? Did it have to be green? Why not blue, purple, or maybe have it some sort of chameleon? Seeing as this is a film aimed at kids, I’m sure they thought it was just a giant blob of snot. Also, the film is named for the stuff, and we do get a lot of use out of it, but the character Flubber seems to only have 3 or 4 scenes. I imagine this is due to CGI costs, but we get Weebo for almost the entire film, surely Flubber could have had another scene or two!

Love story. This is probably going to sound like I don’t have a heart, which is something I am accused of more often than not, but I really believe this film could have done without the love story. I say this because it doesn’t really move the story anywhere. All that is accomplished it a way to show Weebo is in love with the Professor, something else that probably could have been left out. The angle with Marcia Gay Harden ran its course when she he falls out of her window. At that point, we should have focused on the flubber experiments (and the comedic results and explosions).

Not nerdy enough. For this role, I see some scrawny, nerdy guy. Someone in the vein of Rick Moranis, Jerry Lewis, maybe even Martin Short. Robin Williams, in comparison, is John Wayne. What I mean by that, is Williams is more burly and dare I say manly, not exactly features one would expect when describing an absent-minded professor who spends most of his time in his garage lab or running to teach his classes and then running back home for more experiments. Maybe it is just me, but I didn’t find Williams nerdy enough.

Here’s a bit of trivia about Flubber. The voice of the little robot Weebo is the same as another well-known redhead in the Disney Universe, Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Yes, Jodi Benson lends her voice to this film, and I think she appears as Weebo is “dying”, but I’m not sure if that was her or not. So, what is the final verdict on this film? It is what is it, and that is a solid family film that will make you laugh, perhaps cry, and give you that warm fuzzy feeling. As an overall film, though, it isn’t that great. Still, I would highly recommend it, so bounce on over or start your flubber powered flying car and check this out!

4 out of 5 stars

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