Film Review: Son of Flubber
In 1963, Robert Stevenson released Son of Flubber, as the sequel to his 1961 film The Absent-Minded Professor. Starring Fred MacMurray, Nancy Olson, Keenan Wynn, Ed Wynn, Bob Sweeney, Paul Lynde, Tommy Kirk, Leon Ames, Charlie Ruggles, Ken Murray, William Demarest, and Elliott Reid, the film grossed $22.1 million at the box office.
After his discovery of Flubber, Professor Ned Brainard finds the Pentagon has declared the discovery top secret and the IRS has given him a large tax bill. He finds a solution in the form of Flubbergas, an element able to change the weather.
While it’s a good film and enjoyable follow-up, Son of Flubber feels as if it were three distinctly different films rolled into one. There is Alonzo P. Hawk planning to close Medfield College and other characters working to keep it open alongside Brainerd’s governmental woes surrounding the declaration of Flubber to be top secret and his new invention which is able to shatter whatever glass is in the direction it is pointed. Despite there being those three different plots, the film does not feel cluttered. Every story plays itself out well and all the connections between them are believable in the efforts to make it as cohesive as possible. Brainerd has money problems because of what is going on with the government and his new invention shatters glass, causing Hawk to seek restitution. Yet, in the damage lawsuit, the invention is also found to be useful in making crops grow larger than usual, resulting in a dismissal of the case and the college to be saved from money earned by the machine. The only aspect that does not feel as if it belongs is a subplot dedicated to using Flubbergas to cheat at football.
The film does not suffer from pacing issues either. The filmmakers allow the film to take whatever time it needs for scenes to play out for however long they need. This allows for the maximum amount of humor within the film as well. One scene sees Shelby followed in his car by Brainerd who is flying. Brainerd realizes the other man is attempting to turn his wife against him and conspires his own method of revenge. To do so, Brainerd creates a cloud in Shelby’s car with his machine. It starts raining in the car and Shelby, dressed as King Neptune, winds up swimming and reaching for the steering wheel and his car runs into a parked police car. It’s a funny scene and the way the film is paced allows for the audience to see the humor in its entirety.
When it comes to characterization, all the returning characters retain their personalities and characteristics. At the same time, new characters are given their own voices and not rehashed to be a carbon copy of any other character. A notable new character is Desiree de la Roche, a woman who is an old friend of Brainerd and who Shelby brings along in order to make Betty think Brainerd is being unfaithful. De la Roche is perfectly characterized as a woman with more beauty than brains, using the former to get any man interested in her. Moreover, Shelby returns as the scheming second man he was in the first film, always with a plan to get Betty away from Brainerd and towards him. Brainerd also retains his absent-mindedness from earlier, seen when he’s working on his new invention. He pays little attention to the world around him, even not realizing it’s raining in his laboratory until minutes after the downpour has begun.
As stated above, the film has plenty of humorous moments, including the aforementioned scene where Shelby is swimming in his car. There is another particularly funny scene when Brainerd is trying to use his new machine on far away clouds. Wherever he points the machine, the film shows a series of glass breaking. In this series is a milkman watching the progression and frantically working to start his car so he can get out of the unseen line of fire. The humor comes to a head in this scene as the bottles break and the milkman collects what milk he can in a metal bottle and cats come out for a drink.
Awards & Recognitions
bold indicates reception of award/recognition
- Golden Laurel – Top Comedy
- Golden Laurel – Top Male Comedy Performance (Fred MacMurray)