Directed by Les Mayfield. Starring Robin Williams, Marcia Gay Harden, Christopher McDonald, Raymond J. Barry, Ted Levine, Wil Wheaton. (1997, PG, 93 min.)
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Nov. 28, 1997
The odds are that the uninspired remake Flubber won't appeal very much to either of its target audiences: Disney-weaned baby boomers with fond memories of Fred MacMurray in a flying jalopy in The Absent-Minded Professor, or fidgety eight-year-olds with short attention spans who want nothing more than to be entertained every minute. As in the original movie, Flubber is about the distracted Professor Phillip Brainard, who discovers a magical substance of green goo with hyperkinetic properties and christens the stuff “Flubber” (i.e., “flying rubber”). While the Professor sees his discovery as the means for generating cash to save his near-insolvent college, there are others who want to use it for their own selfish ends. Meanwhile, a romantic rivalry brews between the Professor and a fellow colleague over the Professor's ex-fiancée, whom he left standing at the altar one too many times (he is an extremely forgetful man). Also, a flying robot contraption named Weebo, who is the Professor's personal secretary and confidant, struggles with how to tell her boss of her unrequited crush on him. With the exception of the Weebo storyline, which has its tender moments, not much else in the film sticks to the ribs. Sure, there's a bizarre computer-generated sequence of numerous Flubberites dancing the mambo to a snazzy Danny Elfman score, and the basketball game in which a Flubber-assisted team triumphs is rousing. With the exception of the handful of scenes in which the Flubber does its stuff, however, the youngsters will no doubt be bored by it all. (Even the patented, Home Alone-styled physical abuse of the film's benign bad guys -- flying bowling balls slamming against foreheads, and the like -- probably won't impress this jaded generation.) As the Professor, the remarkably restrained Williams is more cuddly than mad, though on more than one occasion, you sense that this usually manic actor is just aching to let a string of stream-of-consciousness ripostes fly. That, in fact, sums up the overall impression that this amiable but lackluster movie leaves. If only it were a little crazier, a little more willing to let loose, Flubber might be a movie truly enjoyed by the kid in us all.