Flubber

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Flubber

This Disney remake of 1961's The Absent-Minded Professor opens with absent-minded Robin Williams waking up and, instead of turning off his alarm, accidentally pushing a button that sends a garbage can outside hurtling into the air, landing with a clatter. Why anyone, even an eccentric professor in a Disney movie, would have a button rigged to perform such an operation—not to mention why anyone would have one located next to his bed—is a mystery: Not only is this one of Flubber's unexplained gaps in logic; it's also a perfect example of the sort of needless flourishes that ruin this and other recent bits of incestuous Disney recycling (That Darn Cat, et al). From a house populated with whizbots and robomen made possible by 30 years of special-effects advances, Williams neglects his personal life while working to develop a lighter-than-air substance. As anyone who's seen the original knows, he ends up with flubber, and, as anyone who's seen the barrage of television ads and trailers knows, the 1997 version of flubber comes with computer-generated personality and sass. What the ads don't reveal is that this newfound personality doesn't play into the plot of the movie, except in the form of a few superfluous scenes such as an embarrassing mambo number. The newly intelligent flubber serves only as kinetic eye candy, added simply because it could be, and seemingly unnoticed by the film's characters, who mostly treat the green goo as an inanimate object. Like everything else in this needless remake—from a heartless performance by Williams to the patented kiddie-sadism of screenwriter John Hughes—it's sloppily grafted onto a skeletal version of the original, with scenes lifted from the source and reinserted in a manner that doesn't make sense. (Not content to plunder The Absent-Minded Professor, the makers of Flubber also include an automated-breakfast scene, complete with a familiar-sounding Danny Elfman score straight out of Pee Wee's Big Adventure.) The end result should please no one, though there are many ass-centric gags. If the disappointing performance of this fall's RocketMan is any indication, however, there is only so much money to be made by targeting the anal fixations of children.