By Owen Gleiberman
December 05, 1997 at 05:00 AM EST

As computer-generated special effects have grown more advanced, they threaten to overwhelm such minor matters as story, character, and emotion. This, however, is not a problem in Flubber (Walt Disney), an agreeably unhinged slapstick jamboree. The film pretends to star Robin Williams, gently updating the eggheaded convolutions of Fred MacMurray in Disney’s The Absent-Minded Professor. But its true star — its only star, really — is Flubber, the shape-shifting candy-green blob of ”flying rubber” that Williams’ Professor Brainard invents. The Flubber ricochets around rooms like a mad bullet, splits into pieces and does a full-tilt Busby Berkeley/Mambo King/Astaire-and-Rogers number, and, in a bit that’s destined to bring down the house (assuming, that is, that the average house patron is 7), zooms through a villain’s intestines and comes shooting out of his rear end. (Top that, Jim Carrey.) The Flubber does everything, dear God, but fly over the ocean and solve the Mideast crisis.

In Flubber, the special effects threaten to overwhelm story, character, and emotion, but you don’t necessarily mind. There are far less entertaining things to see in a movie than Robin Williams being outacted by rocketing Jell-O. Williams’ bow-tied, shock-haired professor is ”absent- minded” because his entire being is wedged into his brain. (”I love you on a subatomic level!” he tells his fiancee, played by Marcia Gay Harden, whom he keeps forgetting to meet at the altar.) He invents Flubber to save ailing Medfield College, but, of course, the Flubber is really his unleashed id. It’s wild and needs taming, and Brainard gains control of it by reducing a tiny bit to liquid Flubber, which can be sprayed on any surface, rendering it feisty and bounceable (or, in the case of a bowling ball, lethally speedy).

The film’s anarchic centerpiece is the big college basketball game, in which the Medfield players get bits of Flubber dabbed onto their sneakers and proceed to go bounding all over the court, doing enough impossible slam dunks to make Michael Jordan look like he’s wearing lead weights. The picture itself doesn’t maintain that level of buoyancy. There’s too much stuff with Williams’ Flubber-enhanced flying car, a none-too-special effect that’s a bit too reminiscent of ’60s Disney. Still, it’s fun to see a kiddie movie that revels in abolishing its brain as thoroughly as this one. B-

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  • PG
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