Flubber (film)

Flubber is a 1997 American science fiction comedy film directed by Les Mayfield (who had previously directed another John Hughes scripted remake, Miracle on 34th Street) and written by Hughes, based on an earlier screenplay by Bill Walsh. A remake of The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), the film was produced by Walt Disney Pictures and stars Robin Williams, Marcia Gay Harden, Christopher McDonald, Ted Levine, Raymond J. Barry, Wil Wheaton, and Clancy Brown with Jodi Benson providing a voice. The film grossed $178 million worldwide. In selected theatres, the Pepper Ann episode "Old Best Friend" was featured before the film.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byLes Mayfield
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • John Hughes
Based on
Music byDanny Elfman
CinematographyDean Cundey
Edited by
  • Harvey Rosenstock
  • Michael A. Stevenson
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures[1]
Release date
  • November 16, 1997 (1997-11-16) (New York City)
  • November 26, 1997 (1997-11-26) (United States)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States[1]
Budget$80 million[2]
Box office$178 million[3]


Professor Philip Brainard (Robin Williams), of Medfield College, is developing a new energy source in an attempt to raise enough money to save the college from closure. His preoccupation with his research distracts him from his fiancée and the college president Sara Jean Reynolds (Marcia Gay Harden); he has missed two weddings in the past as a result of this, much to the anger of Sara. On the day of the third attempted wedding, Brainard is approached by his former partner Wilson Croft (Christopher McDonald), who has profited from ideas he has stolen from the chemist and now desires to steal Sara from Brainard and make her his wife, which he declares directly to Brainard, though Brainard takes it as a joke. Before he can make it to the wedding, his latest experiment shows fast development, forcing him to miss another wedding. The resulting substance created from the experiment is a sentient green goo with enormous amounts of elasticity and kinetic energy. It increases in speed as it bounces and proves to be difficult to control, wreaking havoc on the neighborhood before the professor finally manages to capture it. Weebo (voiced by Jodi Benson), Brainard's hovering robot assistant, classifies the substance as "flying rubber", leading Brainard to christen it as "Flubber".

Brainard continues to work on Flubber into the early morning, looking to stabilize the Flubber's movement as opposed to stimulation. Brainard's watch alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m. (set wrong) and Weebo informs him that he has missed the wedding. Brainard goes to Sara's office and unsuccessfully attempts to explain the situation to her. Meanwhile, Medfield College sponsor Chester Hoenicker (Raymond J. Barry) is disappointed that Brainard failed his son Bennett (Wil Wheaton) in chemistry class. That night, Hoenicker sends his security guards Smith (Clancy Brown) and Wesson (Ted Levine) to Brainard's house in an attempt to persuade Brainard into giving Bennett a better grade. However, Brainard is too busy testing the Flubber to even notice them and unknowingly knocks them unconscious with a Flubber-coated golf ball and bowling ball. He uses Flubber to give his vintage Ford Thunderbird flight. During a test run, he discovers Wilson making the moves on Sara (making a bet that she'll buy him dinner if Medfield wins, or join him for a weekend in the mountains if they lose). Afterward, Weebo attempts to confess her love of Brainard, only to be shrugged off as a computer. In response, she secretly creates a holographic human version of herself named Sylvia (Leslie Stefanson) in hopes of winning him over. Before Weebo can kiss Brainard in this form as he sleeps, Brainard awakens with another idea for Flubber. He enters a vacant basketball arena and tests the effects of Flubber on a basketball and his shoes. Later, he gives Flubber-padded shoes to the unskilled Medfield basketball team to increase their abilities and defeat their opposing team, Rutland.

Back in Brainard's home, looking to have some fun, Weebo unleashes Flubber from his case, allowing him to dance around the house and cause general mayhem. After the close but successful basketball game, Brainard's attempt to win Sara back into his favor fails. Upon returning home, Brainard releases his emotional baggage on Weebo, saying his absent-mindedness is due to his love of Sara. Weebo records Brainard's ramblings and shows the footage to Sara, who then reconciles with Brainard. Brainard demonstrates Flubber's abilities to Sara and they discuss how it can be used for profit. However, Hoenicker discovers Flubber's existence and, after failing to convince Brainard and Sara to sell it to him, summons Smith and Wesson to raid Brainard's house and steal Flubber. Weebo attempts to fend off the henchmen, only to be struck down by Wesson with a baseball bat. Brainard and Sara return to find the home a wreck and find Weber (Brainard's house-robot) cleaning up, Flubber stolen, and Weebo destroyed. Later, Brainard discovers that Weebo had downloaded backup data of herself onto his computer in the event of her destruction, as well as a video recording of Weebo's hologram professing her love for him.

Brainard and Sara confront Hoenicker and attempt to save Flubber, under the guise of accepting Hoenicker's offer. While there, they discover that Wilson is allied with the millionaire who wanted to sell it for a profit. Brainard and Sara then reveal their ruse and unleash Flubber, starting a battle between them and the villains. In the end, Brainard and Sara defeat Wilson, Bennett, Hoenicker and his henchmen, retrieve Flubber, raise enough money to save the college, and finally have a successful wedding, along with Flubber and the "daughter" of Weebo, called Weebette. The film ends with the family heading to Hawaii in the Thunderbird 30,000 feet in the air.



Filming began in San Francisco on Treasure Island in Building 180 and Hangar 3. Sets constructed there included the basketball court, a duplicate of the Professor's house where some exterior and all interior shots were produced, a separate set portraying the basement of the house, and Hoenicker's library. Many exterior shots of Brainard's house were shot in San Jose at a home that was temporarily modified, including the addition of an Observatory on the roof. Sara Jeans office, Hoenicker's living room, and most exterior campus shots were produced at a private girls High School on the San Francisco peninsula. The exterior shot of the Rutland gym was shot at Stanford. Some scenes were filmed on campus at San Jose State University in Washington Square Hall during production in 1997.[4] The shot of the Professor and Sara Jean floating through the clouds in the Thunderbird was filmed at the former Mare Island Naval facility in Vallejo, California. Other scenes were filmed at the University of the Pacific, Stockton.

Gag homages

Many gags are embellishments from the 1961 film; John Hughes rewrote the original Bill Walsh screenplay (based on Samuel W. Taylor's short story, A Situation of Gravity originally published in the May 22, 1943 issue of Liberty magazine). Though Walsh died in 1975, he received posthumous credit for this script.


Flubber made $93 million in the United States and a total of $85 million in other countries for a total of $178 million internationally.[3]

Flubber was first released on VHS and Laserdisc on April 21, 1998 with two special bonus features: a behind-the-scenes "Making of Flubber" featurette and a special bonus Pepper Ann episode: "Snot Your Mother's Music."[5] The DVD was released in 2003, with the same two bonus features as the VHS, as well as the film's original theatrical trailer.


The film holds a 24% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 34 reviews; the average rating is 5.3/10.[6] Metacritic gives the film a score of 37/100 based on 19 reviews.[7]


  1. "Flubber". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  2. "Flubber (1997)". The Numbers. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  3. "Flubber". Box Office Mojo. Amazon.com. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  4. "SJSU Facts: 1980 to 1999". San Jose State University. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  5. Fitzpatrick, Eileen (February 7, 1998). "Fox to Roll Out Animated Push for Anastasia". Billboard. p. 91.
  6. "Flubber (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  7. "Flubber". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
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