Monday, 8 August 2016

Retro Movie Review: Flubber (1997) #RobinWilliams

Flubber
1997
Cast: Robin Williams, Marcia Gay Harden, Christopher McDonald, Clancy Brown, Scott Michael Campbell, Raymond J Barry
Genre: Fantasy comedy
Estimated Lifetime Gross: $92,977,226

Plot: Professor Phillip Brainard is experimenting with new kinds of energy, and he thinks the project will save struggling Medfield College, where his girlfriend, Sara (Marcia Gay Harden) is president. But when he discovers a lively, rubber-like substance dubbed ''Flubber'', he gets so excited he absently-mindedly misses his own wedding. Sara dumps him, so he tries to use this discovery to win her back; unfortunately, the mischievous Flubber seems to have a mind of its own

*This review may contain spoilers*









'Good, Lightweight Family - Based Disney Remake Held Together By Williams, Despite Lacking Some Bounce'

Based on the 1960s movie, The Absent-Minded Professor, Flubber was yet another in the long line of successful hit movies for Robin Williams and his massive success during the 1990s very much continued with this special effects-based comedy bonanza from Disney: the story's main protagonist is Professor Phillip Brainard (Robin Williams), who works at Medfield General as a scientist looking for a new form of energy and with that he invents a green, rubbery goo that can bend, shape, mould itself and do all types of crazy and out-of-this-world things. But the more engrossed he becomes in his work and his new invention, Flubber, the more he loses track of what's important - and that is his wedding to Sara, for the 3rd time. And with that, Sara loses patience and turns her attentions to Phillip's arch-rival, Wilson who is smitten with her & so Phillip sets out to win back her affections - with the help of his creation. The film is categorised as a fantasy comedy aimed children and families, but with that, there is also a love triangle subplot brewing between Phillip, Sara and Wilson amongst Phillip's scientific endeavours. 

A few gripes I would have about this film, if they were any (well, in fact, I do have a few in mind), is Marcia Gay Harden as Phillip's girlfriend: at first I thought those two looked good together, but watching their onscreen relationship unfold I didn't really feel for them as a couple, nor sensed any real sexual chemistry. But of course, this is a kids movie and we can't have any real sexual undertones. They tried to make it work, but really it was to no avail. Actually, I couldn't really envision Robin Williams and Marcia as an onscreen couple in a movie, regardless of the type of characters they play. I liked the idea of Phillip being romantically involved with one of his co-workers; if only the choice of actress to play his love interest was a little bit better. The dialogue wasn't the problem either; in fact, I found it to be rather good: it's the performances by the other cast members and not the lead cast member in Robin Williams that didn't quite elevate this film as high up as it should do. 

Also, Christopher McDonald as a double-crossing, scheming bad guy didn't convince me as much as I'd liked to have hoped, although the other antagonists were, all right. For a kids movie that is, they were passable.  

Furthermore, there were times where it became a little too corny and silly that made me cringe - like Phillip using his butt to bounce off the Flubber and it hit the bad guys (that was really, really cringing), but like I mentioned this is a family movie. The scene with the nude models in class was unnecessary for a G-rated affair. A few people also noted how they didn't like how the robot Weebo created a hologram image of a woman as herself and as she tried to kiss Phillip because it was too adult- oriented. That scene didn't freak me out or annoy me. Was it uncomfortable? Not really. I liked Weebo a lot; she was a somewhat interesting character besides Phillip. Did the film really need to add that part in? No, and that whole Weebo having feelings for Phillip thing was also completely unnecessary. Not because this is a family feature, but it didn't have a place in Flubber. I just didn't see how it would tie in with the rest of the events of the film. The writers should have taken that part straight out of the movie. But it was the movie's so-called unrequited love saga, inasmuch as the one with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell in Hook. Still, there was no need having it in this film. Hook, for me, yes, but in Flubber, absolutely not. Flubber though did extremely well at the box office, in spite of that it wasn't well received by the critics, & it did make Disney a whole heap of money. And thus also showing, Disney is not resting on their laurels with just Aladdin to get the Robin Williams word out. 

The special effects were amazing, thanks to Disney, this film arguably looks so much better than Jumanji, as unlike the latter, they haven't dated as much. or be it at all. The CGI work was very impressive. 

Compared to his other family movies, Ferngully and Aladdin, Flubber is pretty much on par with Ferngully, in that Robin Williams's characters, Phillip and Batty Koda are the best things about their respective movies, whereas it doesn't really hold a candle to Aladdin. Though Phillip can proudly sit alongside Genie as Robin's only Disney-related character roles he has undertaken. 

Performance-wise, Robin is the dorky, geeky type, completed with the matching bow tie and glasses (and he looks adorable, in a nerdy way). But as much as I like Phillip Brainard - who was much more open and happier than Mr. un-cheerful Alan Parrish from Jumanji, and I do like this character a lot & his much more reserved demeanour -, this was for me his weakest performance from 1997, compared to Sean Maguire from Good Will Hunting and Dale Putley in Fathers' Day. It also showcases less of his talent, wit and humour that was in Good Morning, VietnamHook, Aladdin and Mrs Doubtfire. Those other characters of his for me had so many different layers and it enabled him to stretch his comedic and acting abilities as much as they did and he could. Yes, as Phillip, Robin does a lot on screen based on the script that he'd had, but it's a pity that the writers could have done so much more here with Phillip. & more than just him being a nerdy, super-smart scientist.  





But with the material that he was given regardless, Robin Williams still pretty much stands head and shoulders above everyone else - not just because he is the star attraction of Flubber and that having his name alone on the movie posters, is enough to draw attention to audiences. Yet - and just like with his other effort from the same year, as Dale in Fathers' Day alongside Billy Crystal, which suffered this exact, same problem - his performance as Phillip in Flubber alone makes everyone else look ordinary (and at worse, bland) by comparison; with a much stronger supporting cast line up, they would have brought a whole lot more to this film and injected more life into it. 

Punctuated with slapstick and comedic scenes, some of it was all right; like the bad guys being hit on the head by a flying bowling ball. The other moments like the butt bouncing off the Flubber, made me wince and the story is geared more towards children who will take to this film much more than adults. However, I still find this film to be enjoyable, highly entertaining and a good film to wind down with. & I also like how this is set within a college backdrop; it was interesting. 

I could see in Flubber, Hook, Jumanji & perhaps but none more so Mrs. Doubtfire as movies that had a realistic chance of getting a sequel, and I wouldn't have minded had this movie received one; there are definitely some potential story lines involving Phillip with the Flubber the writers could've explored further on. 






Summary



Pros +

- Great CGI effects 
- Robin Williams is the best thing about this movie, alongside Weebo and the special effects
- Fun movie to watch with the kids and the family
- Not too heavy with the story, which is fine by me 
- Interesting college setting and theme 
- It has some good and entertaining moments that kept me glued 


Cons - 

- A few cheesy and cringe-worthy scenes such as the butt bouncing off the Flubber
- Didn't really feel Marcia Gay Harden as Phillip's girlfriend 
- Weak supporting cast 
- Weebo having feelings for Phillip part should have been taken out of this film, because it didn't need it



Final Verdict:


The strength of this film is Robin Williams himself....and he just about manages to pull this one through. Flubber would be a much better film if they'd kept Robin and the robot, Weebo, took out the unrequited love storyline involving Phillip & Weebo and recast/replaced the entire rest of the characters with other and better actors and actresses. Also, the romantic subplot with Sara and Phillip would have been a whole lot more believable, honest and natural, had the casting director opted for a different actress for the role of Sara, rather than Marcia Gay Harden.  

Despite those nit-pickings, Flubber is a relatively good, fun, lightweight yet also highly entertaining family/kids movie that is worth viewing.


Overall:







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