On the surface, Walt Disney’s The Absent Minded Professor is a comedy-fantasy of infectious absurdity, a natural follow-up to the studio’s Shaggy Dog. But deeply rooted within the screenplay [from a story by Samuel W. Taylor] is a subtle protest against the detached, impersonal machinery of modern progress.
The Professor (Fred MacMurray) is an easygoing, likeable smalltown practical chemist who comes up with a practical discovery – a gooey substance endowed with the elusive quality of anti-gravity. He dubs it ‘flubber’ (flying rubber) and proceeds to put it to use in incongruous ways.
In the film’s most hilarious passage, he applies it at half time to the gym shoes of a basketball team hopelessly outclassed by its opponents’ height, whereupon the beaten boys promptly stage a bouncy aerial second half ballet.
MacMurray is ideally cast as the car-hopping prof, and plays the role with warmth and gusto. Nancy Olson attractively supplies romantic interest. Keenan Wynn is a delight in a delicious satirical role – that of a money-man loan tycoon who would sell his own alma mater for a buck.
1961: Nominations: Best B&W Cinematography, B&W Art Direction, Special Effects