Professor Phillip Brainard, an absent minded professor, works with his assistant Weebo, trying to create a substance that's a new source of energy and that will save Medfield College where his sweetheart Sara is the president. He has missed his wedding twice, and on the afternoon of his third wedding, Professor Brainard creates flubber, which allows objects to fly through the air.
04 Feb Flubber (1997)
Cinematic Inner Minds
17 years on. Not a bad time to evaluate a film for merit. Supposing it doesn‘t work — this one doesn‘t — we have a chance to reflect on its place in history. Yes we have the beloved Robin Williams in his least loveable mode: physical slapstick and Asberger’s brilliance. We have Elfman at his least attractive self as well, before he assembled the creative team that makes catchy honking jingles in his name.
We have no change from the quantum states of film scientist: evil or goofy or the guy that-saves-the-world. We have John Hughes and his brand of injury slapstick just as it was becoming unfunny. The CGI creature was not technically impressive; it had been half a decade since Cameron‘s liquid metal.
But we do have one element that is really interesting. If you have not seen this recently, we have a genius scientist/inventor of the Tony Stark variety — someone who can both ‘invent‘ chemically and construct robot gismos. One of these is a humanised floating globe robot, who seems to be primarily a companion. The way this is written, the robot is physically real and combats the bad guys.
But she occupies other interesting spaces as well. She is (has been created as?) a love interest. She (using an ordinary Windows machine) is capable of creating a holographic projection of a perfect female to ‘love‘ our professor. The romance plot turns on her loving him so much that she heals his romance with the real girl, a tepid soul. (The voice is Jodi Benson who will be known in countless households as the Disney Princess Prime.)
Much, much more interesting is the role of the floating orb as the inner voice of our Asperger’s Autist. What she actually says is uninteresting; how she says it is fascinating. When something important is to be communicated, she pops up a screen that has a short scene or image from an old movie (from the Disney archive).
As it happens, this is not for the professor to see. He often isn’t looking. It is for us to see, a direct connection with the audience, but presented so that we understand it as the image in the shared mind at that moment. It is a pretty remarkable device, having memories of film illustrate what is in someone‘s mind. It is perhaps the fundamental challenge of film. Books can take you in the mind and soul. Films can show you things that indirectly have to do so.
Robin Williams had nothing to do with writing this or elaborating it as he often did. But now that he is gone, it is tempting to redo these scenes and composite in the film sequences that were likely in his hyperactive mind, as far from Asbergers as one can get without destruction.
Posted in 2015
Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.