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Williams plays Professor Phillip Brainard, an Absent-Minded Professor-type searching for an energy-based scientific breakthrough in order to save his college from closing for lack of funding. He stumbles across such a creation in the form of "flying rubber" (the eponymous "flubber"), a physics-defying green rubber-like substance that can somehow both bounce with inexhaustable kinetic energy and defy gravity. With it and the help of his Robot Buddy, Weebo, Brainard hopes to save his college and his relationship with his long-suffering fiancee Dr. Sara Jean Reynolds (Marcia Gay Harden), while fending off an Obviously Evil rival and his corrupt Dean, who try to steal Flubber for themselves.
Since this is not only a live-action Disney film, but a remake of same from the '60s, you know there's a Mega Happy Ending in the offing.
Flubber contains examples of the following tropes:
- Absent-Minded Professor: A genius innovator of robots, flubber, and Rube Goldberg contraptions, but don't expect him to arrive at his own wedding on time (which he missed four times), or have the common sense to sell his inventions already rather than use them for slapstick humor and to win basketball games (or at least hire someone to do it for him). It's also a remake of the Trope Namer, The Absent Minded Professor.
- On the other hand, Wilson does say that he stole Phillip's ideas, so maybe he got there first.
- Aint No Rule: When the opposing coach in the basketball game calls shenanigans over the other team's Flubber-enhanced and physically impossible jumping abilities, the ref simply tells him that there's no rule about jumping too high.
- And This Is For: Sara yells "This is for Weebo!" when throwing Flubber at the Big Bad.
- Big Bad Ensemble: Wilson Croft and Chester Hoenicker. The former wants to steal Flubber (and Sara) from Brainard, while the latter seeks to help his son and get Flubber for himself. Croft becomes The Dragon to Hoenicker, but even then, he still acts on his own.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Phillip's rival, Wilson, who not only admits he's been stealing his ideas for his own benefit, but outright boasts he now wants to steal his fiancée. As in literally. In his very first scene.
Wilson: "I'm here this weekend to steal your fiancee, and make her my wife."
- Chekhov's Gun: Guess.
- Deadly Dodging: At the fight at the end of the film, two of the mooks are taken out by Brainard using Flubber to bounce out of the way of their fists, forcing them to punch each other instead. Non-lethal.
- Death of the Hypotenuse: The only real reason for Weebo to die in an otherwise slapsticky film was to clean up the Love Triangle. Verges on Spurned Into Suicide given that she deliberately hid her own blueprints.
- Destination Defenestration: The Big Bad is knocked out a window, into a pool of water.
- Do Androids Dream?: Briefly touched on when Weebo "dies". ("What happens to the soul of a machine, Sara?") Technically he should be able to just rebuild her, of course - but the film tries to explain that Weebo hid the knowledge from him for some reason.
- Dude, He's Like, In A Coma! - Weebo eventually creates a holographic projection of herself in order to try and have a physical relationship with the professor... when he's asleep.
- Emerald Power: The titular Flubber is a sentient mass of green goo.
- Evil Counterpart: Croft is this to Brainard, as if that wasn't obvious enough.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: See Dude, He's Like, In A Coma! above. And it is not subtle at all.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Hey its Wesley as the dean's son!
- Ted from Scrubs is the basketball coach.
- Captain Stottlemeyer as the thug Wesson.
- Clancy Brown is the other thug, Smith.
- Mrs. Carmody is Sara.
- that one guy, whose name you can't remember, but always recognize, because he's the asshole in every movie that he's in (Christopher McDonald).
- Hey, It's That Voice!: The Little Mermaid herself is the voice of Weebo.
- His Name Is: Weebo's last action is to flash a mysterious filename up on her screen, which turns out to be the blueprint for her 'daughter'.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Weebo not only helps get Phillip back together with Dr. Reynolds, she intentionally alters her own design so her own feelings won't interfere with their relationship. And then refers to it as her 'daughter' to make absolutely sure.
- Jerkass: Wilson. Arguably Phillip
- Killed Off for Real: Weebo.
- Mind Rape: Arguably done by Phillip's jealous robot, Weebo, to herself because she wanted to get rid of the flaws to make Phillip happy.
- Mood Whiplash: Weebo's death adds a disturbingly tragic end to that subplot and serves as a surprisingly dark element to an otherwise cheerful film. A film that also showed people getting smacked in the head with bowling balls from so high in the sky that they can't be seen until just before they hit you without suffering any dramatic pain.
- Nepotism: The Big Bad doesn't like Phillip because he gave his son a failing grade, resulting in his being dropped from the team.
- No One Should Survive That: Wesson is repeatedly hit on the head by a BOWLING BALL, either falling from a great height or (in the first instance) moving at an incredible speed.
- Sara jumps on Smith's head, although as he does not get back up after this it is left ambiguous as to whether he is dead or unconscious.
- No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The film's excuse for why Weebo is unique and Phillip won't be able to repair here after she is killed. Phillip even claims her sentience was an accident, and he tried several times to recreate with no success. Later, in Weebo's post-mortem video file, she explains that she hid the plans, notes, and ideas to make her... though she actually did save an improved backup of herself in case she died. Still creates some problems as to how Weebo pulled this off.
- Perpetual Motion Machine: Flubber is a perpetual motion substance.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: The film treats it as a-okay for Brainard to continually abandon his fiancée at the altar, stalk and antagonize Wilson, and cheat at basketball so his college will win the Big Game.
- Punny Name: The two thugs are named Smith and Wesson.
- Reed Richards Is Useless: Phillip is more concerned about coming up with a new energy source that will help save his college... despite having a hovering robot capable of speech, emotions, and sentient thought, never mind the flying car. He does eventually sell the flying car, but the idea doesn't even occur to him until Sara reconciles with him, though Weebo did apparently prevent Phillip from making a duplicate somehow.
- Runaway Groom: Brainard skips his own wedding three times - by simply forgetting to show up. A rare example of the trope where the man does the leaving and is presented as sympathetic, while the jilted bride is presented as being unreasonably angry for not wanting anything to do with him anymore.
- Running Gag: The boy keeps seeing Brainard's antics.
- Slapstick: The movie clearly uses the laws of slapstick regarding the ability of objects to bounce and violently (but harmlessly) knock people over. Strangely averted when Weebo actually dies. Then played straight again for the rest of the film.
- Social Darwinist: One of the reasons Wilson claims justified stealing Phillip's ideas. And also cause he's a Jerkass (see previous trope).
- Spoiled Brat: The Dean's son, who bribed his teachers for good grades.
- That Came Out Wrong: It takes a few tries for the Big Bad to elucidate that "give it to him" means handing Phillip the squirt gun, rather than squirting him with it.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Smith and Wesson.
- What Does She See in Him?: Considering all of Phillip's many faults, how did Dr. Reynolds ever get to the point of marrying him? Though considering that she did get to that point, why do they still bug her so much and she does nothing to accommodate them? It isn't until the film's finale that she lets the Weebo successor take his place at the wedding to ensure he's there in some form while he works... though this technically means he considered his job more important than his own wedding.
- It's also worth asking what she saw in Wilson since he's openly a slimeball. Admittedly, if she was willing to put up with Brainard's constant ditching of her, she was probably just happy to date a guy who actually showed up.