Nashville Scene

DIRECTED BY: Les Mayfield

REVIEWED: 12-08-97

John Hughes is the Puff Daddy of modern movies: He's a whiz at taking something old and adding just enough to claim a paycheck. Flubber, Hughes' slack reworking of The Absent Minded Professor, is such a half-assed job of adaptation that the author of the 1961 original, Bill Walsh, gets half the screen credit here. He deserves more than that. Everything that's amusing about Flubber can be traced back to his script, while Hughes' additions--which basically amount to serious injuries and cranial contusions--are the same lame, sadistic gags he's flogged in every movie since The Great Outdoors.

The story is almost exactly the same: The squirrelly Prof. Brainerd (Robin Williams) devises a flying-rubber substance with unlimited applications; while he tries to woo his long-suffering fiance and save Medfield College, thugs plot to steal the miracle goo. Not even Hughes and director-for-hire Les Mayfield can screw up the notion of Flubber, which turns basketball benchwarmers into Air Jordan and causes cars to fly. But for all the computer-generated tomfoolery, the special effects aren't that much of an improvement comedically; they're too elaborate and painstaking to provoke many laughs.

Hughes' one inspiration is a romantic subplot between Brainerd and a hovering gizmo called Weebo (the voice of Jodi Benson), which nurses a serious crush it can only express through TV clips a la Dream On. Weebo is by far the movie's most appealing character; of course, Hughes finds a needlessly mean way to yank her out of the movie. At least she goes on to a far better place--which is to say that she'll spared from Son of Flubber.

--Jim Ridley

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Capsule Reviews

Other Films by Les Mayfield
Blue Streak
Miracle on 34th Street

Film Vault Suggested Links
Doug's First Movie
Air Bud
Baby Geniuses

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