Williams plays Professor Philip Brainard, an Absent-Minded Professor-type searching for an energy-based scientific breakthrough in order to save his college from closing for lack of funding. He stumbles across such a creation in the form of "flying rubber" (the eponymous "flubber"), a physics-defying green rubber-like substance that can somehow both bounce with inexhaustable kinetic energy and defy gravity. With it and the help of his Robot Buddy, Weebo, Brainard hopes to save his college and his relationship with his long-suffering fiancee Dr. Sara Jean Reynolds (Marcia Gay Harden), while fending off an Obviously Evil rival and his corrupt Dean, who try to steal Flubber for themselves.
Since this is not only a live-action Disney film, but a remake of same from the '60s, you know there's a Mega Happy Ending in the offing.
Flubber contains examples of the following tropes:
- Absent-Minded Professor: A genius innovator of robots, flubber, and Rube Goldberg devices, but don't expect him to arrive at his own wedding on time (which he missed four times). It's also a remake of the Trope Namer, The Absent-Minded Professor.
- Accidental Misnaming: Philip keeps forgetting Martha's name. And for some reason it's names that ends with a 'y'.Philip: Good morning, Lucy.
Philip: Martha what?
Martha: Martha. Me Martha.
Philip: You Martha. Me Professor.
Martha: (annoyed) I know.
[After Sara reminds Philip not to forget their wedding later (again).]
Martha: Good luck, Philip.
Philip: Thanks, Betty.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Smith and Wesson wreck Philip's laboratory and successfully steal the Flubber.
- And This Is for...: Sara yells "This one's for Weebo!" when throwing Flubber at Hoenicker.
- Artistic License – Sports: Using Flubber to enhance the basketball team would be cheating and noticed by officials. Weebo and Wilson lampshade this.
- Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: The film had one instance of "damn" very obviously inserted just to earn the film a PG rating. Strangely enough, when later aired on The Wonderful World Of Disney, it had the word seamlessly removed to bring it back down to TV-G.
- Batter Up!: Wesson uses Philip's baseball bat to kill Weebo during his and Smith's burglary of Philip's laboratory.
- Big Bad: Chester Hoenicker, Medfield College's sponsor who wants to help his son Bennett and eventually get Flubber.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: Weebette has shades of this. She calls Sara "mom," and loudly complains about having to share a room with Flubber during Philip and Sara's honeymoon.
- Brick Joke: One scene has a boy who's afraid to go to sleep, so his father shuts the window in his room to reassure him that nothing can get in. Cue Flubber smashing through the window and bouncing around the room. At the end of the movie, the same boy's riding an airplane, with his father once again reassuring him that there's nothing all the way up in the sky. The boy looks out the window, and sees Brainard's flying Thunderbird driving next to the plane (with Flubber riding in it.)
- Smith and Wesson.
- Philip is very often engaged in comical mishaps from his experiments.
- Wilson takes blows several times.
- The whole neighborhood when the Flubber first escapes.
- Card-Carrying Villain:
- Chester Hoenicker is very forthright about threatening teachers to give his son Bennett good grades or stealing technology that the inventor would not sell to him.
- Philip's rival, Wilson, who we find out even works for Hoenicker in the end. He not only admits he's been stealing his ideas for his own benefit as a result of that, but outright boasts he now wants to steal his fiancée. In his very first scene he says the following:Wilson: "I'm here this weekend to steal your fiancee, and make her my wife."
- Character Death: Weebo is critically damaged by Wesson. Philip talks about "downloading her" in order to cheat death, but he doesn't get to it in time so she's Killed Off for Real.
- Deadly Dodging: At the fight at the end of the film, two of the mooks are taken out by Brainard using Flubber to bounce out of the way of their fists, forcing them to punch each other instead.
- Deadpan Snarker: Weebo is very sarcastic, especially towards the Brainard's relationship with Sara.
- Death of the Hypotenuse: Weebo dies before the climax, thus leaving the Love Triangle missing a point. It verges on Spurned into Suicide given that she deliberately hid her own blueprints.
- Destination Defenestration: Sara throws the Flubber at Hoenicker, sending him out of a window into a pool of water.
- Do Androids Dream?: Briefly touched on when Weebo "dies". ("What happens to the soul of a machine, Sara?") Technically he should be able to just rebuild her, but he talks about her creation being a "marvelous accident", i.e. he doesn't know how to. Also Weebo hid the knowledge from him out of jealousy. She didn't want to share him with other models.
- Dude, He's Like, In a Coma: Weebo eventually creates a holographic projection of herself in order to try and have a physical relationship with the professor... when he's asleep.
- Emerald Power: The titular Flubber is a sentient mass of green goo.
- Evil Plan: Wilson comes right out and admits it. "I'm here this weekend to steal your fiancee, and make her my wife." Though he also wants to steal the Flubber formula.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- The Dude, He's Like, In a Coma thing is not subtle at all.
- "Go home and play with your rubber." We know Brainard created Flubber, but Wilson doesn't — meaning he probably meant something closer to masturbation.
- Hero's Classic Car: When Brainard needs a car to use as his flubber-powered flying test-bed, he uses his own 1963 Ford Thunderbird.
- His Name Is...: Weebo's last action is to flash a mysterious file name up on her screen, which turns out to be the blueprint for her 'daughter'.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Bennett throws a glass ashtray at Philip in the finale, but Philip deflects it back at him and sends him sprawling backwards onto a couch.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Weebo not only helps get Philip back together with Sara, she intentionally alters her own design so her own feelings won't interfere with their relationship. She even refers to it as her 'daughter' to make absolutely sure.
- Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: Weebo is a sentient computer, and not even Philip knows how he managed that. Weebo does, but hides the knowledge out of jealousy.
- It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: Wesson calls Philip "Ein-STEEN," prompting the professor to correct him ("Ein-STEIN").
- Jerkass: Wilson is shameless about stealing Philip's inventions and and his desire to steal his fiancee.
- Loophole Abuse: When the opposing coach in the basketball game calls shenanigans over the other team's Flubber-enhanced jumping abilities, the ref simply tells him that there's no rule about jumping too high.
- Merchandise-Driven: Not only were two types of flubber available in stores when the movie was in theaters (a vaguely humanoid stressball as seen in the big dance number, plus a thicker slime-like substance), but also an electronic talking Weebo toy that spoke likes from the movie.
- Mood Whiplash: Weebo's death adds a disturbingly tragic end to that subplot and serves as a surprisingly dark element to an otherwise cheerful film. A film that also showed people getting smacked in the head with bowling balls from so high in the sky that they can't be seen until just before they hit you without suffering any dramatic pain.
- Nepotism: Hoenicker doesn't like Philip because he gave Bennett a failing grade, resulting in his being dropped from the team.
- No One Should Survive That:
- Wesson is repeatedly hit on the head by a BOWLING BALL, either falling from a great height or (in the first instance) moving at an incredible speed.
- Sara jumps on Smith's head, although as he does not get back up after this it is left ambiguous as to whether he is dead or unconscious.
- No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The film's reason for why Weebo is unique and Philip won't be able to repair her is this trope. Philip claims her sentience was an accident, and he tried several times to recreate this event with no success. Later, in Weebo's post-mortem video file, she explains that she hid the plans, notes, and ideas to make her. In this same video she reveals that she kept a copy of her design specs in case she died.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Philip when he is about to crash his Thunderbird into the boy's house. And again when he discovers that turning off his Thunderbird causes it to fall out of the sky.
- Philip when he heard the coach said the opposing team has "remained undefeated in their last 108 games". He was applying the Flubber-padded thumbtacks on the home team's shoes, which means they're gonna get pulverized before the thumbtacks kick in.
- Philip and Sara when they realize that the former's home has been ransacked.
- Smith when Sara is about to knock him out with her shoes.
- When Philip avoids Smith and Wesson's attack and lands on a ladder, he says "Oh, dear" when he sees the deer head hanging right near him.
- Bennett has a split-second reaction when Philip deflects the glass ashtray into his face.
- Hoenicker when he realizes that Sara is about to use Flubber on him.
- Perpetual Motion Machine: Flubber is a perpetual motion substance.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: It's a Zigzagged Trope.
- Brainard stalks and antagonizes Wilson but it's treated like Rule of Funny and in any case, Wilson is a Jerkass.
- Brainard secretly implements flubber technology on a basketball team so his college will win the Big Game. In one scene he says that all his inventions are meant to support this college, and that's what he's doing.
- Brainard gets flack from everybody for continually standing up his fiancee at the altar. The only exception, ironically, is the jealous robot.
- Product Placement: Ford is heavily featured in the film, specifically its headquarters and the Thunderbird itself.
- Punny Name: The two thugs are named Smith and Wesson.
- Reed Richards Is Useless: Again, it's a complicated instance. It's basically because he's so absent-minded that he gets too caught up in the inventions themselves to capitalize on them.
- He invented a Robot Buddy but it was accident and can't create a second one. Weebo deliberately sabotages him in this instance.
- He invented a flying Thunderbird but it doesn't occur to him to sell the design until Sara reconciles with him. He's very excited about the deal: "I've never seen so many zeros!"
- He invented Flubber specifically so he would have something to sell, and the flying Thunderbird came after this.
- Relationship Sabotage: Weebo sabotages Brainard's relationship with Sara, among other things deleting their wedding from his schedule to ensure he'll forget about it, in order to keep him to herself.
- The Remake: Of The Absent-Minded Professor.
- Repeat Cut: At the end of the film, Bennett getting hit with his own ashtray is shown in three different angles.
- Rule of Three: Brainard's inability to show up to his own wedding; Sara seems to think that a whopping three times is a reasonable place to draw the line. She does just that.....but that doesn't stop them from finally doing it on their fourth attempt, via video camera.
- Runaway Groom: Brainard skips his own wedding three times - by simply forgetting to show up. A rare example of the trope where the man does the leaving and is presented as sympathetic and also rare in that it doesn't present the other party as evil or disposable. Sarah has this scene where she explains to her bridesmaids that "Once is natural, twice is....understandable but three times...." In the end, he still can't show up to his own wedding. The only reason the wedding happens at all is because they video conference it with Weebo's daughter. At least he remembered to dress for the occasion.
- Running Gag: The boy keeps seeing Brainard's antics.
- Screams Like a Little Girl: Smith does this when Sara knocks him out with her feet.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Hoenicker attempts to escape when Bennett, Smith and Wesson are defeated, but he doesn't get that far.
- Sentient Phlebotinum: The Flubber has a mind of its own and is very much mischievous.
- Shout-Out: Flubber is referenced in Journey Into Imagination With Figment's queue, where you can see an office door with the name "Professor Philip Brainard" on it along with a replica of Weebo on display.
- Slap Stick: The movie clearly uses the laws of slapstick regarding the ability of objects to bounce and violently (but harmlessly) knock people over. Strangely averted when Weebo dies from being whacked in the "face" with a baseball bat.
- Smug Snake: Wilson Croft's ego is matched only by his jerkass behavior.
- Soft Glass: At the end, Sara sends Hoenicker flying through a glass window, but he is completely unharmed by it when he falls into the pond.
- Social Darwinist: One of the reasons Wilson claims he is justified in stealing Philip's ideas; because he has the ability to do so and the savy to make it work. It's also because he's a jerkass (see previous trope).
- Smart People Build Robots: Phillip has not only automated the process of making flapjacks and eggs, but has a robot butler named Webber and a robot secretary named Weebo.
- Speaks in Shout-Outs: Weebo flips up her monitor and plays quotes and clips from movies and TV shows. These mix in with her original dialogue.
- Spoiled Brat: Chester Hoenicker' son marches through his house, blaming his dad for screwing up. What was the screw up? He didn't do a good enough job bribing his college teachers into giving him a good grade.
- Tempting Fate: During the successful wedding.Brainard:These two chemicals are completely compatible! There is no way anything.. Could.. Go... Wrong! *Cue explosion*
- That Came Out Wrong: It takes a few tries for the Big Bad to elucidate that "give it to him" means handing Philip the squirt gun, rather than squirting him with it.Chester Hoenicker: Let him have it.
Wesson: (squirts Philip Brainard in the face)
Chester Hoenicker: N-No, no. Give it to him.
Wesson: (squirts him again)
Chester Hoenicker: W— Stop that and give it to him.
Wesson: (squirts him again)
Chester Hoenicker: Put-Put it in his hand and give it to him.
Wesson: (squirts him in the hand)
Chester Hoenicker: No, no, no, no, no. Give the gun to him!!
- Those Two Bad Guys: Smith and Wesson.
- Unlucky Extra: A boy neighbor of Philip who is scared of what might come from behind the window.
- What Does She See in Him?:
- Considering all of Philip's many faults, how did Sara ever get to the point of marrying him? Considering that she did get to that point, why do they still bug her so much and she does nothing to accommodate them? It isn't until the film's finale that she lets the daughter of Weebo take his place at the wedding to ensure he's there in some form while he works... though this technically means he considered his job more important than his own wedding.
- It's also worth asking what she saw in Wilson since he's openly a slimeball who even uses her when he treats her gentlemanly. Admittedly, if she was willing to put up with Brainard's constant ditching of her, she was probably just happy to date a guy who actually showed up.