Picks and Pans Review: Flubber

updated 12/08/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/08/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

Robin Williams, Marcia Gay Harden

When Robin Williams careers into antic overdrive, it's a rare talent who can keep up with him, much less steal a scene. Meet Flubber, a Prell-green, gooey substance with the personality of a mischievous 5-year-old. It bounces circles around Williams in Flubber, a hyperkinetic, gadget-stuffed remake of the 1961 family comedy The Absent-Minded Professor.

Bounce is one of the main properties of Flubber—a neologism for "flying" and "rubber"—along with its ability to absorb and increase energy. Williams plays the brainy scientist (My Three Sons' Fred MacMurray in the original) who invents the stuff. Unfortunately for the professor, his Flubber breakthrough comes on the eve of yet another scheduled trip to the altar with his fiancée (Harden), whom he has already stood up twice at vows time. The next morning, Harden is in no mood to hear his excuses for missing their wedding again. She sputters, "You broke my heart so you could stay home and make some green goo?" Williams must then spend the rest of the movie convincing Harden of Flubber's worth and flummoxing the bad guys who are out to steal the Flubber formula from him.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist, much less an absent-minded professor, to figure out that this frantic Flubber will appeal more to kids than adults. For grown-ups, Flubber's main diversion comes in comparing and contrasting it with the black-and-white '61 film. Harden's character is now president of a college rather than just a secretary to the college president; Williams drives (and flies) a 1963 Thunderbird rather than a Model-T; and his sidekick is a floating robot instead of the cute dog and elderly housekeeper of the original. But it's the Flubber, now computer-generated and pulsing color, that really asserts itself here. Why, it even mambos its way through a gala production number worthy of Busby Berkeley. (PG)

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