The Absent Professor: A Tribute to Robin Williams

Last night, my son and I watched “Flubber” in a tribute to the late, great Robin Williams. Still shaking our heads in disbelief–like most people–we kept thinking of how alive he was, how truly, totally, crazily alive. Today, my son posted his thoughts on facebook and I asked him to guest blog for me here. Michael O’Brien Herold is a recent graduate of The College of New Jersey and a sports writer in search of the perfect dunk (read: his specialty is basketball and he needs a job!)

I really don’t think I could’ve put it better myself.


The Absent Professor

Mike O’Brien Herold

Tonight I watched Flubber for the first time in a very long time. It was one of my favorite movies as a kid, but watching it as an adult I saw just how silly and often disjointed the film was. In fact, I’m not sure I would have watched the whole thing if not for the lead actor.

I generally don’t pay attention to the goings-on of celebrities, and have never before felt much other than “Oh, that’s a shame” when one died. That makes me like a whole bunch of other people, I guess, because this one just feels different. Because Robin Williams wasn’t like other celebrities–Robin Williams did movies like Flubber.

Let me explain: Flubber came out in 1997. That’s after Dead Poets Society, Good Morning Vietnam, Fisher King, Mrs. Doubtfire and Aladdin, and the same year as Good Will Hunting. My guess is at that point Robin Williams could have done literally any movie he wanted–people had seen his incredible range as an actor, he’d done big money makers and voiceover work that I don’t think will ever be bested. He’d done enough “kiddie” movies to establish himself as fun for the whole family and performed in enough serious roles to justify a full-time move to the land of only Academy Award-worthy movies.

He chose to do Flubber. Flubber, a goofy mess of a movie that only kids would really find funny. And you know what? He rocked it. I kept watching Flubber tonight because Robin Williams was amazing in it. He was funny when he needed to be funny, and extraordinarily touching and poignant when that was called for.

But the whole time I kept thinking that his performance was wasted. The rest of the cast didn’t seem to take the movie seriously, and I know the writers and director didn’t care if anything made sense. Until I realized why Robin Williams, at that point a huge freaking movie star, would take on such a role.

Flubber made kids laugh.

I think it was really that simple. Sure, Robin Williams could have kept raking in the awards and recognition, or making ridiculous sums of money. But when it came down to it, he chose to make a movie that would make kids laugh.

That’s not something you see too often. In fact, that’s not something you see…well, pretty much ever.

And of all the reasons I’ll miss Robin Williams, I think that’s the biggest.

Rest in Peace, Robin. I hope you find someone in the next life who wants to make you laugh as much as you wanted us to.


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