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Film / Flubber

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Flubber is a 1997 movie starring Robin Williams, and a remake of 1961's The Absent-Minded Professor, written by John Hughes and directed by Les Mayfield.

Medfield College professor Philip Brainard (Williams), an Absent-Minded Professor-type, is searching for an energy-based scientific breakthrough in order to save the 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 (Jodi Benson), 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 Wilson Croft (Christopher McDonald) and a corrupt college sponsor named Chester Hoenicker (Raymond J. Berry), who try to steal Flubber for themselves.

The film also stars Clancy Brown and Ted Levine as Smith and Wesson, two bodyguards that Hoenicker hires to spy on the professor.

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 Discovery:
    • Prof. Brainard admits that he invented his artificially intelligent robot sidekick Weebo by accident, and that even today he has no idea how Weebo achieved true intelligence and free will. Turns out Weebo had been doing research into her creation on her own, and managed to come up with a design that allowed Brainard to create a second intelligent robot.
    • Flubber itself was invented by accident. Brainard was trying to come up with a new kind of energy reactor, and instead got an (apparently alive) substance that can apparently increase its kinetic energy after bouncing off a surface.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Philip keeps forgetting Martha's name. And for some reason it's names that ends with a 'y'.
    Philip: Good morning, Lucy.
    Martha: Martha!
    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.
  • Actor Allusion: While developing the crystallized Flubber, Philip sneezes in the same manner Peter Banning did in Robin Williams' previous film Hook.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Wesson misunderstands Hoenicker's euphemisms for shooting Philip with a water gun by spraying him with it instead of handing the gun back, Wilson is laughing as the scene goes on and it's not even out of malice.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Shelby in The Absent-Minded Professor was not the main villain, but just a prideful Jerkass who gets in the way of Professor Brainard in his pursuits of his girlfriend. In the remake, he is renamed Wilson and he is working closely with the other main villain, Hoenicker.
    • Biff in the original film was a Villainy-Free Villain who just aided his father out of their familial bond and was never comfortable with his crooked way of doing things, ultimately having a Heel–Face Turn in the sequel. His counterpart in this film, Bennett, is a straight-up villain without any remorse.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In the original Fred MacMurray films from the 60's, Professor Brainard's first name was Ned. Here, it's changed to Philip.
  • Adaptation Title Change: Flubber is based on the film The Absent Minded Professor.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Near the end, Philip and Sara witnessed the Flubber flying into Wilson's mouth, and Wilson is forced to fart the Flubber out of his ass before passing out from exhaustion, an act that left both Philip and Sara shocked and showing pity for Wilson - he may be a Jerkass but that had to hurt.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Smith and Wesson wreck Philip's laboratory and successfully steal the Flubber.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Wesson takes a long time to understand that his boss Hoenicker's various euphemisms for shooting someone (with a water pistol, thankfully) were actually meant literally.
    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!!
    Wesson: Oh...
  • 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 get revenge on Professor Brainard for failing him and eventually steal 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 flying on 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).
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • 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.
  • Canon Foreigner: Weebo didn't exist in The Absent-Minded Professor and was specifically created for this film.
    • Although an artificial intelligence, Albert, was introduced in the 1988 reboot.
  • 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 Croft, 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."
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Inverted. Brainard uses Flubber to help his school's basketball team cheat in a game. They win and are never caught cheating, despite it being fairly obvious that something abnormal was going on.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Phillip certainly has shades of this. Who else would take their wedding vows via video screen while busily experimenting during the ceremony?
  • Creating Life Is Unforeseen: Weebo was a "glorious accident," and can't be repaired when she is damaged. However, she designed an improved version of herself that shows up at the end. The Flubber itself is far more alive and intelligent than intended.
  • Cute Machines: Weebo, a small, hovering droid with a flip-up screen that shows pictures and video clips when she's snarking. After her death at the hands of Hoenicker's henchmen, her "daughter" Weebette proves to be even cuter.
  • 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 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 but reveals them afterwards.
  • Delivery Stork: Stork is Weebo's last word before dying. It turned out to be the name of a file on Brainard's computer that contained a final message from Weebo as well as plans for a new model, which she calls her daughter, making the file name "Stork" a Meaningful Name.
  • Destination Defenestration: During the climax, 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.
  • Down to the Last Play: The Medfield College basketball team is down by one point during the final seconds of the game. A player with Flubber on his shoes manages to make the final score by jumping all the way across the field and going through the hoop with the ball just before the buzzer rings.
  • 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.
  • Every Man Has His Price: This is the philosophy of Chester Hoenicker, who has been bribing all of his son's professors into giving him passing grades. Only Brainard has been resisting due to his "principles". Hoenicker sends his goons to dig up some dirt on him so that he can be blackmailed.
  • 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.
  • Explosive Results: When Professor Brainard attempts to create the compound that would later be known as Flubber, it explodes, turning his lab/basement into a disaster area. At the end of the movie, when Brainard is getting married via video screen, he mixes two smoking chemicals together assuring his bride that "there is no chance, that anything could go wroooonnnngggg!!" as his house explodes. Again.
  • Flying Car: Brainard uses Flubber to give his car an upgrade that allows it to fly. He manages to sell it to a car company for a lot of money.
  • Gadgeteer's House: Professor Brainard's kitchen has automated machines in his kitchen to prepare breakfast for him. A Mac Plus automatically runs all the machines around the house.
  • Helium Speech: Philip Brainard's flubber experiment causes a helium gas tank to leak open causing his voice to get really high for a brief moment.
  • Heroic BSoD: Philip goes into a brief depression shortly after Wesson kills Weebo.
  • 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.
  • Hologram: Weebo projects a holographic hot girl avatar for herself to fondle Brainard in his sleep. It's weirder in context.
  • Hover Bot: Weebo and Weebette
  • Hyper-Destructive Bouncing Ball: Flubber when it gets too excited will begin to bounce around the room and even the whole neighborhood, knocking things over, breaking through windows, and knocking people down. When liquid Flubber is applied to regular balls, such as a golf ball, bowling ball, or basketball, these balls will also bounce wildly around the room causing massive damage.
  • 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.
  • In a Single Bound: Anyone with liquid Flubber sprayed on the soles of their shoes would instantaneously gain ability to bounce several meters into the air just by jumping, thanks to the Flubber's ultra-bouncy properties.
  • Informed Flaw: Brainard's absent-mindedness is at full display in the first 15 minutes of the movie, and is barely seen in the rest of the film.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass: Wilson is shameless about stealing Philip's inventions and his desire to steal his fiancee.
  • Kill the Cutie: 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.
  • Live-Action Cartoon: Has a couple of cartoonish moments, including Smith and Wesson surviving injuries that would have been fatal. It was written by John Hughes after all.
  • Look Ma, No Plane!: At the end of the movie, Brainard and his newly married wife fly their flying car next to a commercial plane, where they are spotted by the little boy who Brainard had been frightening all throughout the movie.
  • 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.
  • Made of Iron: Professor Brainard, despite being an ordinary college professor, is able to withstand a lot of physical abuse. He's survived two large explosions in his home, gets knocked around by his Flubber repeatedly, goes flying into a bunch of metal chairs at high speed, and falls out of a second story window all without any long term injuries.
  • 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.
  • Muggle Sports, Super Athletes: Brainard uses his "flying rubber" to give his school's basketball team a much-needed boost (in order to prevent his rival from winning a bet), letting them bounce across the court.
  • Mustache Vandalism: In one scene, a piece of Flubber lands in a jar of ink and then paints a replica of the Mona Lisa, finishing it off with a long thin mustache.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Trailers for the movie really emphasized the presence of the CGI Flubber creatures. It's barely in the movie at all.
  • Non-Dubbed Grunts: Towards the end of the film, Hoenicker's scream as he gets sent flying into the pond is unchanged in quite a few foreign dubs (including Latin Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese).
  • 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.
  • 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, allowing Philip to create a new version that Weebo's video file describes as her daughter.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Philip when he is about to crash his Thunderbird into the boy's house.
    • When Philip and Weebo discover that turning off his Thunderbird causes it to fall out of the sky.
    Weebo: Uh-oh. (car plummets)
    • Philip when he heard the coach saying 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.
    • Wesson when he sees Weebo barreling towards him just as he's about to steal Flubber.
    • Philip and Sara when they realize that the former's home has been ransacked.
    • When Philip avoids Smith and Wesson's attack and lands on a ladder, he says "Oh, dear." upon seeing the deer head hanging right near him.
    • Smith when Sara is about to knock him out with her shoes.
    • 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.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Brainard is a chemistry professor who can also build robots, program sentient AI, and upgrade his car to be able to fly.
  • Orifice Invasion: During the climax, Flubber shoots into Wilson's mouth, wriggles around inside of him, and then explodes out the rear.
  • 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 Philip Brainard is 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 such as deleting their wedding from his schedule to ensure he'll forget about it, in order to keep him to herself. However, she regrets it once he had found out about her true feelings for him, and atones for her actions by persuading Sara to make up with Philip.
  • The Remake: Of The Absent-Minded Professor.
  • Remake Cameo: In the Japanese dub, Hoenicker is voiced by Michio Hazama, who previously played Ned Brainard in the dub 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.
  • Robosexual: Weebo, Brainard's robotic assistant, has developed a crush on her creator, however Brainard doesn't return her feelings or is even aware of them.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: Professor Brainard's breakfast machine
  • 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. Sara 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 Weebette. At least he remembered to dress for the occasion.
  • Running Gag: The boy who keeps seeing Brainard's antics out his bedroom window causing him to run screaming down the hall. In the very final scene, he's flying on an airplane, too afraid to look out his plane window. When he finally decides to open it, he becomes shocked to see the newly-wed Brainard and Sara in Brainard's flying car.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Weebo, as she ends up being whacked to death with a baseball bat by Wesson while trying to protect the Flubber from being stolen by Hoenicker. Her death also served as a catalyst for an angry Philip and Sara to rescue Flubber and get even with Hoenicker and his men.
  • Saving the Orphanage: Brainard's college is in danger of closing down unless he can discover something that he can sell, which leads to his creation of Flubber, which he eventually sells to a car company to create flying cars.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Smith does this when Sara knocks him out with her feet.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Brainard wouldn't accept a bribe to give Hoenicker's son a passing grade due to his principles. He also wouldn't sell Hoenicker the Flubber because he was more interested in saving the school than becoming personally wealthy.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Hoenicker attempts to have his son pass all of his classes in college to be admitted into Harvard business school by loaning the school money.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 savvy to make it work. It's also because he's a jerkass.
  • 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's son Bennett 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 professors into giving him a good grade.
  • Stealing the Credit: Wilson admits to taking advantage of Brainerd's ideas.
    "I'm not an innovator like you, Phil. I'm an adapter, and to that end, I have profited from your ideas."
  • Stood Up: Brainard has done this repeatedly to his fiance, Sarah, by forgetting to show up to his own wedding two times before the events of the film. After getting distracted by his work and missing the wedding for a third time, Sarah breaks up with him.
  • Tempting Fate: During the successful wedding, while Philip is carrying out his scientific experiments, he tells Sara, "These chemicals are completely compatible! There is no way anything... could go wrong!" Then, his home laboratory explodes.
  • That's Gotta Hurt: During the first half of the basketball game, one of the Medfield Squirrels runs smack into one of the Rutland Rangers, and falls to the floor with a thud. The Rangers coach says this line, and Coach Barker calls foul over it.
    Rangers coach: Oof! Ooh, baby, that's gotta hurt.
    Coach Barker: He fouled him! He threw his hip into that!
  • TV Head Robot: Weebo has a monitor on the top of her head that she can flip up to show Brainard his schedule, or to snark.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: The Medfield College basketball team is expected by nearly everyone to lose against the Rutland College team. The Medfield team is comprised entirely of out of shape, glasses wearing nerds, while Rutland is comprised of top tier athletes, and their team has won the last 108 games. But thanks to Professor Brainard's flubber, Medfield managed to win the game by one point.
  • Undisclosed Funds: When Brainard sells his invention to a car company, we never find out how much he sells it for, but we do hear Brainard remark that he's never seen so many zeroes.
  • Unlucky Extra: A little boy who is scared of what might come from behind his bedroom window.
  • Video Wills: Weebo leaves a video recording of her human hologram for Brainard after her death. In it she reveals that she's been keeping the knowledge of her creation a secret from him and has included plans for a new version of herself that will become her daughter.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Hoenicker, once Bennett, Smith and Wesson are defeated, escapes his office and tries to flee. Sara stops him with the Flubber before he can get far, sending him sprawling out of a window into a nearby pond.
  • Water Guns and Balloons: Professor Brainard shows up at the Big Bad's house with a water pistol that he says he uses to lower the temperature of the flubber storage tank. In actual fact, the pistol is filled with a liquid flubber solution.
  • 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? note  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.