Rubbery Flubber is a Little too Stiff
Sometimes I feel lucky that I grew up after the heyday when Disney were delivering fun family movies such as "The Nutty Professor" and "The Absent-Minded Professor". It means that when I've watched the more modern remakes I am not as disappointed as those with fond memories of those fun originals. As is the case of "Flubber" a remake of "The Absent-Minded Professor" with Robin Williams taking on the role of whacky inventor Professor Brainard. For me "Flubber" is okay, a bit flawed but still entertaining yet I am sure if I had grown up watching Fred MacMurray in the "The Absent-Minded Professor" I would only be disappointed.
Whacky inventor Professor Phillip Brainard (Robin Williams - Man of the Year) is two things, a genius and also absent minded, which explains why on the day he is meant to be marrying Sara (Marcia Gay Harden - Mystic River) he forgets, and not for the first time as this is their third attempt at getting married. But whilst he may have forgotten and become distracted he did invent flubber, rubber which flies, a substance with great potential and may save the college where he works from being forced to close. But not only has Phillip got some serious making up to do with Sara he also has to watch out for a corrupt business man and his henchman who want his miraculous invention.
"Flubber" starts well with an amusing introduction to the whacky world of absent minded Professor Brainard where we are greeted to a series of inventions including one which automatically cooks and serves breakfast. It's fun, quirky and imaginative all of which I am sure younger audiences will enjoy along with the Professors robot assistant Weebo. But after the fun intro "Flubber" then becomes all a little dull as it combines almost 3 stories. The first of which is being absent minded Brainard keeps getting things wrong and forgetting things including his wedding to Sara. It's not a great storyline by any stretch of the imagination and almost feels out of place in a movie aimed at younger audiences.
The second element and what is for most the main focus is Brainard's invention Flubber because it's rubber which flies. It's okay and mainly consists of a series of funny scenes where he explores the amazing potential of Flubber. So we get Flubber pinging all over the place out of control, being smothered on bowling balls which bounce into orbit and used to make his car fly before being used to help the schools basketball team. It's all amusing stuff even if it's all a little unoriginal and repetitive.
And then there is the third element and what Disney movie would be complete without some bad guys who want to steal Brainard's invention. Again I am sure younger audiences will be entertained by the slapstick featuring two inept bad guys coming a cropper. But for me it was all too reminiscent of the bad guys in the "Home Alone" movies and in comparison felt weak, as if it was almost an after thought, an element used to pad out a movie which was struggling for length.
Bu what is most disappointing is Robin Williams as Professor Brainard for the simple reason that it feels like his creativity has been restrained and forced to stick to a script. It means the level of crazy, wackiness is not there yet you know that Williams is more than capable of delivering it when allowed to let loose a bit. And because Brainard is the main focus of "Flubber" it has the knock on effect of never feeling like it has that real comical spark, as if everything and everyone is just going through the motions, sticking rigidly to a very safe script.
Aside from Robin Williams well the rest of the cast equally struggle due to it all feeling too scripted. Marcia Gay Harden barely has anything to do as Sara as is the same for Christopher McDonald as Wilson. Raymond J. Barry just can't do creepy as the evil business man and whilst Clancy Brown is an imposing figure he just can't do a comical bad guy or at least not in "Flubber".
What this all boils down to is that "Flubber" whilst amusing and probably more entertaining for younger audiences it is just an average movie. Which is a shame as the potential for being memorable is there, especially with the casting of Robin Williams as Professor Brainard, except everything feels all too restrained and scripted.