Disney, the towering titan of animation, has also had a successful run at live-action comedies, going all the way back to the 1950s. But the 1990s saw an increase in Disney remaking classic films and TV shows, for then-contemporary audiences. In 1997, they re-told one of their 60s classics, The Absent-Minded Professor, only with Robin Williams, a lot of C.G.I., and a cute luminescent ball of goo namely Flubber.
When disorganised but brilliant researcher, Philip Brainard, attention is distracted by his efforts to create a renewable energy source to save his college from ruin. This causes him to miss his wedding appointment with Sara Jean Reynolds, and put her in the hands of Brainard’s unscrupulous former partner Wilson Croft. His research creates an ultra-hyperactive pile of green slime called Flubber, that he believes will make a lot of money for the campus. But his troubles are far from over When failing a spoilt son of a college sponsor in his class, causes his rich dad to seek vengeance. Now the absent-minded professor has to balance, his love life, his career and his safety.
In a crowning moment of 90sness, the green animated Flubber have this really pleasant Latin inspired dance party that evokes the Intel ads of the era. It’s done in a way that could almost be showboating the talent of the animators at Disney possess. No bones about it, Disney constantly make references to their own work, from clips to their classic animated cartoons are abundant. But it’s not just all call-backs and special effects,
It’s an almost unbeatable testament to the talents of Robin Williams, that such an unlikeable character on paper, is so sympathetic and enjoyable here in Flubber. Maybe it’s because we see most of the film with his adorable robot sidekick Weebo (another shout-out to the spell-bounding C.G.I. on display here) who is infatuated with the professor. Even Robin Williams isn’t alone here with Christopher McDonald channeling that scheming, cocky persona that made him a household name and Wil Wheaton, in a brief but effective part as the entitled son of the university’s benefactor.
Flubber, like a lot of Disney’s live-action output, has a lot of fun and heart at its core. Goofy graphically intensive gags for the kids, and loving drama for the parents. It’s not just Robin Williams at the unstoppable height of his career, but a representation of everything Disney had going so far and will have to look forward to. Ultimately Flubber is a fun, and delightful family film that will put more than a bounce in your step.
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