SON OF FLUBBER (1963)
We’ve arrived at Disney’s first sequel, Son of Flubber. The prolific Robert Stevenson returns to direct this follow-up to his classic The Absent-Minded Professor, yet somehow the magic doesn’t come back with him.
Son of Flubber picks up right where The Absent-Minded Professor left off: Professor Brainard has unveiled flubber, his fantastic new miracle substance, to the world, and offered it up to the United States government so that it can be put towards the greater good. So what now?
Just gonna keep on flubbin’, I guess.
Since adversity begets drama, the film finds itself in an awkward position: everything ended happily at the end of the first movie! And so the backpedaling begins. Brainard’s government contract gets caught up in red tape, leaving him financially strapped once more. An attractive woman from Brainard’s past shows up out of nowhere, so his wife Betsy (Nancy Olson) is pissed off. Now he’s just a poor scientist with a wacky idea for an invention who has to win back the woman he loves (just like in the first one, shucks!).
Except this time, his invention is terrible and threatening.
Yes, with the rights to flubber tied up in Washington, Brainard begins experimenting with its industrial byproduct, flubbergas, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: stupid and less fun than the original. Flubber is pretty simple; it bounces a lot, and exerts more energy than goes into it. That’s easy to wrap a brain around. Flubbergas is explosive (maybe?) and can control the weather (except when it doesn’t). That’s confusing, and no fun.
Did I say it controls the weather? I meant it breaks glass for no explainable reason.
Oh, and Tommy Kirk has a sports subplot. Now, Tommy Kirk had a small part in the first film as Biff Hawke, son of the evil Alonzo Hawke (Keenan Wynn), but never had any relationship with Brainard. Once Son of Flubber starts, they seem to be best pals all of a sudden, and Biff just hangs out in Brainard’s lab, trying to come up with ways to cheat at football, because fuck it.
Whatever, seems legit.
Eventually Brainard is arrested for breaking everyone’s windows with his malfunctioning weather gun. Everyone blathers on about nothing in particular for several minutes before Ed Wynn shows up to tell everyone that it’s okay, because the weather gun also made giant vegetables. The end.
That’s what I call a Wynn-win situation!
I hate me.
Science is terrifying. At very least, if everyone in the scientific community conducts themselves like Professor Brainard. No sterile lab conditions or control groups here. It’s just a man, a garage, several neighborhood kids, and a terrifying car-mounted death-ray.
Gun of flubber.
Mere days after discovering a byproduct of a substance that defies all known laws of physics, Brainard, instead of proceeding with extreme caution, hands a large canister of it off to a couple of neighborhood teenagers, so that one of them can cover the other in hot water bottles filled with the stuff.
For football purposes, no less.
More troubling still is the fact that he then starts immediately pumping the stuff into the atmosphere. He has a hunch (which is entirely wrong) and wants to test it. And that’s how a highly populated area became entirely contaminated with “flubber fallout.” While no one comments on the fact, it is downright chilling that within days the gas has caused abnormal growth in the town’s fruit. What is going to happen to the people who live here in 30 years? I shudder even to think.
But there you have it, kids, just fuck around with dangerous materials! It’s cool, Prof Brainard does it. Knock yourself out.
WHY DON’T PEOPLE LIKE IT?:
No matter how you cut it, rain is not as fun as unstoppable bouncing.
Make it rain!
Oh, yeah, on top of rain sucking, the film doesn’t really have much of a cohesive plot, the characters seem off (the professor is too aware of his surroundings, he’s lost his absentmindedness!), and everything in the film just seems like a weak rehash of old material.
- Police officers Hanson and Kelly (James Westerfield and Forrest Lewis) from The Shaggy Dog make a couple appearances, implying that somewhere in this town, Professor Brainard has a doppelganger who just fucking hates dogs.
These guys have the shittiest luck.
- As unpleasant as the movie is, Paul Lynde is a blast as the sportscaster during the football scene.
Sadly, there’s not enough of him.
MOST REGRETTABLE MOMENT:
Professor Brainard straight up tries to murder a guy. An English prof (Elliot Reid) has been hitting on his wife, so Brainard uses his weather-ray on the guy while he’s driving. It’s hard to say whether he’s trying to drown the man or just cause a fatal accident, but whatever the case may be, shit’s fucked up.
The twisted-minded professor.
To make matters worse, this is the second time he’s tried to kill that poor man. He also ran the guy off the road in a similar manner in the first film. Brainard is one scary, fucked-up son of a bitch.
After watching The Absent-Minded Professor, you might get the urge to watch more zany adventures with Professor Brainard, but unfortunately, this is inadvisable. Son of Flubber retains little of the fun or charm of the original, and can in fact be quite miserable to sit through. I feel like I should make some kind of pun about bouncing or flubber here, but this movie was just too exhausting. Seek it out at your own risk.
The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964)