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It’s time we visit Medfield College again by taking a look at the 1972 sequel to The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes: Now You See Him, Now You Don’t! Directed by Robert Butler, this sequel brings back the basic concept of our college protagonists discovering some sort of scientific breakthrough. In the first film, it was the ability to make a human’s brain work like a computer; in this film, it’s invisibility. Is this sequel better or worse than its predecessor? Read on to find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
As the film opens up at Midfield College, we see our main college protagonists gathered around a walkie talkie eavesdropping on a board meeting in the Dean’s office. The leader of this group of college students is Dexter Riley, again played by Kurt Russell. Other noteworthy members of the group include Frank Welker in a rare live appearance
and Lionel Jefferson himself!
The pompous, idiotic Dean Higgins, played again wonderfully by Joe Flynn, is worried about the college’s financial situation. The science professor, Lufkin, played by William Windom, informs the Dean that the prestigious Forsythe Award (wherein a school will be awarded $50,000 for the best science experiment) is coming up which they may win. But the Dean doesn’t have faith in the students’ projects, especially not in Dexter’s supposed invisibility formula that he’s working on.
The following day, the college is visited by the criminal gambler from the first film, A.J. Arno, played again by Cesar Romero. He was arrested in the previous film, but is out now due to…reasons. The students are then shocked to know that A.J. Arno has taken over the mortgage of the school in a seemingly generous gesture.
Meanwhile, Dexter has discovered that due to a storm the previous night, his invisibility formula now works! He tests it on his glasses and his own fingers and is amazed at the results!
He shows it to his friends, Schuyler, played by Michael McGreevey, and…um…a girl who according to Wikipedia is named “Debbie” (although I swear they never call her by a name more than once or twice in the entire film), played by Joyce Menges.
They discover that washing with water is the way to make the invisible objects visible again. They decide to use this new invention to their advantage to break into A.J. Arno’s place later that night. Dexter and Schuyler make their entire bodies invisible which results in the creative and believable visual gags and effects seen in the film.
After breaking in, they discover that A.J. Arno is planning to transform the college into a gambling joint. However, A.J. Arno happens to be in the building at that moment and overhears the boys talking. When he comes upon them, unable to see them, he’s surprised to hear the boys’ voices and see objects moving as the boys make a run for it.
The next day, Dexter (now visible again) tries to convince Dean Higgins to allow them to enter in the Forsythe Award. He tells the Dean how great his invention is, but doesn’t want to tell him what exactly it is so that the news doesn’t leak out.
Dean Higgins is somewhat persuaded and calls Mr. Forsythe himself, played by Jim Backus, to discuss allowing Medfield College to enter the contest. Dean Higgins discovers that Mr. Forsythe likes golf and he leads him to believe that he is a great golfer himself. Thrilled to know a fellow golfer, Mr. Forsythe invites Dean Higgins to play a game of golf with him, to which Dean Higgins stupidly accepts. Let’s just say Dean Higgins has probably never held a golf club in his life!
Dexter, who happens to be at the golf course that day, decides to help the Dean out by using the invisibility formula to make himself invisible and “help” the Dean’s golf ball find its way to the golf hole. Dexter helps the Dean make several holes-in-one shocking Mr. Forsythe, the other players at the golf course, and Dean Higgins himself!
Due to this, Mr. Forsythe gladly accepts Medfield College into the contest. And Dean Higgins gets invited to play in a televised golf tournament somewhere nearby. Proud of himself, the Dean immediately accepts the invitation and flies off to the tournament before Dexter has a chance to tell him what really was going on! And as you can imagine, the Dean bombs horribly during this golf tournament!
It’s not long before A.J. Arno discovers (via his henchman, Cookie, played by Richard Bakalyan) that Dexter has developed an invisibility formula. This soon gets his gears cranking and he devises a plan!
Actually he has Cookie sneak into the college at night and swap out the invisibility formula for a formula that is just colored water. This proves disastrous as the next day the kids try to display the effects of their formula to Mr. Forsythe, but of course are unable to.
After Mr. Forsythe leaves annoyed that his time has been wasted, Dexter and the gang realize what has happened. They also discover that A.J. Arno is planning to use the real invisibility formula to make him and Cookie invisible so they can rob a bank. Of course, when the kids try to tell the police of this, they’re not believed at first and it’s up to Dexter and the gang to stop Mr. Arno as best as they can!
The climax involves the kids chasing A.J. Arno and Cookie via a car chase which turns out to be harder than usual as they’ve even made their getaway car invisible! But it ends happily when A.J. Arno and Cookie crash their car into a backyard swimming pool rendering them, the money, and the car visible once again.
They’re arrested and Dexter and the gang have just enough time to show Mr. Forsythe the right formula before he declares the winner. And as you’d expect, Mr. Forsythe then declares Medfield College to be the winner of the $50,000 prize! It’s only enough money to keep the financial worries away for a year, but the gang choose to enjoy what they have for the time being.
And that was Now You See Me, Now You Don’t. While the storyline is probably much less fleshed out as The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (I feel that with an invisibility formula, there are a dozen other plots they could have used instead), I do think this sequel is funnier and more enjoyable than its predecessor, a rarity among these live-action Disney films!
There’s great acting by Kurt Russell, Cesar Romero, and Joe Flynn, most of all! But like its predecessor, I found the main girl (Joyce Menges) to be not that great, but that’s mostly due to the script not giving her really anything to say/do rather than a bad performance from the actress herself.
The special effects in this film are very good and successfully give off the illusion of invisibility.
All in all, if you liked The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, you’ll definitely like this film!
So, my final score for this film is 31/35 = 88.57% (B+) !
The next review will be posted on March 19, 2019.