Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Special effects are morphing Hollywood. With a thing like Starship Troopers, you expect it. And, of course, Spielberg's dino dynasty. The effects in Casper were the movie. Same here.

The flubber, a transparent cousin of Potty Putty, is a breakthrough in computer-generated whatsits, a blobby material that changes shape and bounces around at the speed of jet propelled haggis. In all this amazing whoosh and whiz someone forgot the story. John Hughes, the man who never grew up and still made a fortune with Macaulay Culkin in his too-cute-to-maim phase and those Pretty In Pink/The Breakfast Club teenflicks from the Eighties, has taken Bill Walsh's The Absent-Minded Professor script and given it the Home Alone treatment. There are silly bad guys who fall about and a little blond boy who runs screaming down corridors. There's also Robin Williams being his perfect self - shy, unassuming, haphazardly brilliant.

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Like Rick Moranis in Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, he's an inventor whose house resembles a science project. A robot cooks his eggs sunny-side-up and does the housework. Another robot, called Weebo, looks like a flying CD player with a TV screen flashing sight bites to replicate emotion. It has an alluring voice and a crush on the Prof (Williams).

There are similarities between Weebo and ET. In fact it's sexier and more fun than the Prof's fiancee (Marcia Gay Harden), a too sensible college president with a constipated sense of humour. The Prof creates flubber by mistake. As well as being a member of the Putty family, it has energy properties that make a car fly and fat slobby basketball kids jump 40ft in the air. The bad guys want the stuff to exploit it. The good guy wants to save the college from bankruptcy.

Hughes writes in primary colours. His ideas need their batteries recharged. Les Mayfield adds nothing to the style of what has become a sentimental visual cliche. All that's left are the effects boffins, straining their ingenuity on jelly, and Williams putting on a one-man-show with admirable restraint.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Flubber packshot
An absent-minded prof invents a super-bouncy material.
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Director: Les Mayfield

Writer: John Hughes

Starring: Robin Williams, Marcia Gay Harden, Christopher McDonald

Year: 1997

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


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