Movie Night: Flubber

Year: 1997

Director: Les Mayfield

Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures

Leads: Robin Williams, Marcia Gay Harden, Christopher McDonald

Little Satis was in a bad mood the other night, so I went on Netflix in search of Robin Williams. Nothing cheers me up like Williams, but unfortunately Netflix is a bit devoid of decent films these days. They do have Good Morning, Vietnam and Good Will Hunting, but I think Little Satis is just a touch too young for those movies. This left us with Jumanji, which we’ve already seen, Hook, and Flubber. We should have gone with Hook, but I recalled the slapstick of Flubber and thought it would please an eleven-year-old.

The gags come off feeling a little tired and recycled.

I wasn’t wrong, but we were both left feeling slightly empty at the end of it all, despite the chuckles and giggles. Flubber is a remake of the 1961 The Absent-Minded Professor, also by Disney, and whilst I’m usually a stickler for watching the originals first, Netflix didn’t have it, and as I mentioned above, I really just wanted Robin Williams. It follows the story of a … well … absent-minded professor who invents a substance that gains kinetic energy from kinetic energy (i.e. the more you bounce it, the more it bounces). It’s hardly a ground-breaking plot, but I can’t help feeling that more could have been done with it. After all, such an invention in real life would change the world.

The best scenes are, of course, those with Robin William’s classic dialogue and one-liners (my personal favorite is, “If we were interested in making money, we wouldn’t have become teachers”), and a surprisingly fun performance by Wil Wheaton as an arrogant, self-entitled rich college kid who somehow is still more likable than his dad. There’s plenty of far-fetched ridiculousness, including Robin Williams testing flubber first by bouncing a golf ball, followed by a bowling ball (why?).

Ultimately, though, the film feels a little shallow and predictable, with special effects that, for 1997 aren’t bad, but are hardly convincing. Plot hole abound (for example, the basketball players that mysteriously don’t bounce in their flubberized shoes except when it’s convenient), and the gags come off feeling a little tired and recycled. There’s also a CGI dance scene that not even Danny Elfman‘s flubber mambo can rescue.


Why did they have to have dancing flubber?

In the end it cheered Little Satis up, which was what I was hoping for, but I kind of wish there’d been a better offering. Come to think of it, most of Robin William’s absolutely best performances aren’t even comedies (One Hour Photo, anyone?), and I hesitate to show some of them to Little Satis until he’s a little older. What would you recommend as the best Robin Williams movie for an eleven-year-old? Tell me your thoughts in the comments.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Featured image taken from

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 6.46.37 PM

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