Cinema: Daffy Taffy

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The Absent Minded Professor (Buena Vista). Walt Disney, who ran $1,500,000 in the red last year, seems all set to laugh off his losses. For the past month he has been packing them in with 101 Dalmatians, the funniest feature-length cartoon he has ever made. And in this live-action picture he presents the season's kookiest science-fiction farce.

The professor (Fred MacMurray) is a small-college chemistry instructor, known to his students as Neddie the Nut, who "cracks the antigravity problem" by producing a substance he calls "flubber"* — lab gab for flying rubber. Flubber is a sort of daffy taffy that "generates its own energy" by a process of "molecular exchange." Sounds fishy? Works fine. When the professor drops a flubber ball on the floor, it bounces back to the height it was dropped from, goes even higher on the second bounce, hits the ceiling on the third, and on the 50th would probably sail to the moon. The professor installs a crude flubberator in a model T Ford, impetuously bounces off into the blue: with flubber the flivver can actually fly.

Back on the ground, Neddie the Nut finds other uses for the go goo. Is the college basketball squad losing the big game? The prof smears a little witch pitch on the squad's sneakers, and the home team shows a sudden bounce—clear to the roof of the gymnasium. Does the villain (Keenan Wynn) try to steal the hero's secret? The prof discreetly adds a lift to that low heel, leaves him bouncing like a pogo stick till the nutty putty is recovered. Do the Army, Navy and Air Force consider his conquest of gravity a subject of levity? The prof goes whooshing off to Washington, circumflivverates the Capitol dome, lands on the White House lawn and triumphantly reveals the latest wonder of science to a "flubbergasted" world.

Flubber provides fuel for a very funny piece of hyperbolic humor in the grand American tradition of Paul Bunyan, and Director Robert (Kidnapped) Stevenson and Scriptwriter Bill (The Shaggy Dog) Walsh get plenty of bounce out of every ounce. The basketball game is a hilarious parody of the sort of giraffe polo the sport has recently become, and the episode of the bouncing villain is more than merely funny. Higher and higher he goes with every bounce. Will they be able to stop him? If not, the spectator suddenly understands, Keenan Wynn will be the first man in space. It is a thought to give the universe pause.

*Recipe (as prepared by Disney's special effects department): To 1 lb. saltwater taffy add 1 heaping tbs. polyurethane foam, 1 cake crumbled yeast. Mix till smooth, allow to rise. Then pour into saucepan over 1 cup cracked rice mixed with 1 cup water. Add topping of molasses. Boil till it lifts lid and says "Qurlp."