The Absent-minded Professor
Reviewed by: Brett Willis
Sci-Fi Family Sports Comedy
1 hr. 36 min.
Year of Release:
March 16, 1961
This spoof of eccentric scientists and government and military ineptness is well done. The comedy element is funny, and the conflict is restrained enough to make it appropriate for all but small children. Centering around the popularity of “The Absent-Minded Professor” comes the sequel, “Son of Flubber” and remake “Flubber.”
Professor Ned Brainerd (Fred MacMurray) is so absorbed in his research that he’s missed his own wedding to Betsy (Nancy Olson) twice. While missing the third appointment, he discovers a new substance—“Flubber” (flying rubber)—that generates its own energy. Flubber can be used to create multiple products, from high-jumping shoes to flying cars. Keenan Wynn is convincing as nasty loan shark Alonzo Hawk, who steals the professor’s discovery; his father, Ed Wynn, plays the goofy fire chief.
Compared to today’s films, I have to look hard for material for a warnings paragraph. The competition between government agencies, between branches of the military, and between the military and Congress are all playfully satirized. Brainerd’s housekeeper makes an offhand reference to a millions-of-years-old earth. Brainerd uses Flubber to treat the basketball team’s shoes and thus “fix” a game; but in doing so he’s just balancing the scales, since the other college has recruited top-flight players with illegal payments. The most disturbing images for children would be the car crashes and the threatened use of guns by Hawk’s hoodlums. On the whole, it’s a fantasy film that’s just good clean fun.