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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Les Mayfield|
|Produced by||John Hughes
|Screenplay by||Bill Walsh
|Based on||"A Situation of Gravity"
by Samuel W. Taylor
Marcia Gay Harden
Raymond J. Barry
Scott Michael Campbell
|Music by||Danny Elfman|
|Edited by||Harvey Rosenstock
Michael A. Stevenson
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$177.9 million|
Flubber is a 1997 American science fiction comedy film and a remake of The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), directed by Les Mayfield (who had previously directed another John Hughes scripted remake, Miracle on 34th Street). The film was produced by Walt Disney Pictures, and stars Robin Williams, Marcia Gay Harden, Christopher McDonald, Ted Levine, Raymond J. Barry and Clancy Brown.
Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, presenters of MythBusters worked as visual technicians in the film's production. Bill Nye also worked on this film as a science consultant. Toni Basil also worked as a choreographer. The film grossed 177.9 million worldwide on a 80 million budget.
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 preoccupation with his research distracts him from his fiancée, the college president Sara Jean Reynolds (Marcia Gay Harden). He has missed two weddings because of that preoccupation, much to Sara's anger. 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 scientist, and now desires to steal Sara from Philip to make her his wife, which he declares directly to Philip.
Before Philip can make it to the wedding, his latest experiment shows fast development, distracting him and forcing him to miss yet another wedding. The resulting substance created from the experiment is a jellyish 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 hired thugs, 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 hits them on the head 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 kiss Philip in this form as he sleeps, Philip awakens with another idea for Flubber. On an empty basketball arena he tests the effects of Flubber on a basketball and himself. In order to allow the unskilled Medfield basketball team to win the game, he gives them Flubber-padded shoes during half-time.
Back in Philip's home, a curious Weebo unleashes Flubber from his case, allowing him to dance around the house, and with Weebo's help the rest of the household appliances join in. After the closely competed 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 Wesson with a baseball bat. Philip and Sara return home and find Webber (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 teenage "daughter" of Weebo, called Weebette. The film ends with the family heading to Hawaii in Philip's car.
Filming began in San Francisco on Treasure Island in Hangars 1 and 3. Sets constructed there included the basketball court, a duplicate of the Professor's house; where some exterior and all interior shots were produced, a separate set portraying the basement of the house, and Hoenicker's library. Many exterior shots of Brainard's house were shot in San Jose at a home that was temporarily modified, including the addition of an Observatory on the roof. Sara Jean's office, Hoenicker's living room, and most exterior campus shots were produced at a private girls' High School (Mercy Burlingame) on the San Francisco peninsula. The exterior shot of the Rutland gym was shot at Stanford. Some scenes were filmed on campus at San Jose State University in Washington Square Hall during production in late 1996. The shot of the Professor and Sara Jean floating through the clouds in the Thunderbird was filmed at the former Mare Island Naval facility in Vallejo, California. Other scenes were filmed at the University of the Pacific, Stockton.
Many gags are embellishments from the 1961 film, with John Hughes (Home Alone) rewriting the original Bill Walsh screenplay (based on Samuel W. Taylor's short story, A Situation of Gravity). Even though Walsh died in 1975, he received posthumous credit for this script. Wil Wheaton was cast because he resembles Tommy Kirk, who was in the 1961 film. Early in production, Steven Spielberg considered being the film's executive producer. When Philip takes Sarah for a ride in the flying car, he flies through a cloud in front of the moon. As the cloud disperses, a reference to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial can be seen, which was directed by Spielberg.
Flubber made $92,977,226 in the United States and a total of $85 million in other countries for a total of $178 million internationally.
The film holds a 23% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 31 reviews. Metacritic calculated an average score of 37 out of 100, based on 19 critics. The film was submitted for an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects, but did not get nominated. Janet Maslin of The New York Times said the film "may seem all but unavoidable to viewers looking for live-action children's features" she felt Flubber was "more akin to a dangerous weapon". Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times listed Flubber as one of the nine worst films of 1997, saying, "The movie seems to be made out of anti-flubber; you drop it, and it stays on the floor. Although the movie may appeal to kids in the lower grades, it's pretty slow, flat and dumb."
The Washington Post praised the Flubber character for having "more personality than many Hollywood actors" and Williams' performance but felt the film as a whole was "few monkeys shy of a kid movie masterpiece". Joe Leydon of Variety magazine praised the directing of Mayfield and said the film had "possibly greater cross-generational appeal" than Hughes live-action remake of 101 Dalmatians. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B-, saying that he felt the special effects of the film did not entirely overwhelm the story, and that the film was "an agreeably unhinged slapstick jamboree".
Flubber was first released on VHS on April 21, 1998 and the DVD was released on June 16, 1998.