Bubble Boy Movie Review
Those moments of intelligence are delivered mostly by the film's two stars, Jake Gyllenhall as the immuno-deficient Jimmy and Swoosie Kurtz as his over-protective, hyper religious, Reagan-loving mother. Gyllenhall's sweet-natured delivery of Jimmy's hilariously naïve narration serves as the backbone for an otherwise flimsy coming-of-age story: Jimmy is a Bubble Boy, a kid born without immunity who could die if he comes in contact with a single germ -- a plight explored more seriously in the John Travolta TV movie Boy in the Plastic Bubble and less so on Seinfeld.
His mom home-schools Jimmy, filling his head with wildly twisted conservative propaganda and anti-sexual messages, until he's befriended by Chloe (Marley Shelton), the beautiful girl next door. Jimmy falls in love with Chloe, but is afraid that his love will literally kill him, as evidenced in a scene when she drunkenly tries to enter his bubble for a kiss. But when Chloe decides to marry her high school boyfriend, Jimmy builds a bubble suit and embarks on a hijinks-addled cross-country voyage to stop the wedding by professing his love.
The offensive bits have little to do with Jimmy's rare handicap (regardless of what the film's protesters would have you believe), but instead center on outrageous racial stereotypes, including a screaming Chinese strip club owner and a devout East Indian Hindi. But even if you find stereotype humor funny, it's hard to muster more than a giggle for these shallow gags. They even manage to bungle some potentially great moments with a group of carnival freaks.
But a few of the harsh jabs manage to work, especially in the case of Kurtz, who very bluntly shows the dark, hypocritical side of the religious right, and a wacky send-up of a cult called "Bright 'n Shiny," led by the inimitable Fabio.
Unfortunately, a few giggles can't make Bubble Boy the riotous, off-the-wall comedy it so desperately wants to be. Honestly, it's a mystery how on earth this movie was ever made, and I'm not just saying that because it's so mediocre. How odd for Disney to take a gamble on a film with an unknown director starring virtually unknown actors that doesn't seem to appeal to any particular demographic and has the potential to offend so many.
And now that the studio is suffering through a very public protest against the film by the parents of real-life bubble boy David Philip Vetter, maybe Disney's wondering the same thing. Hope the opening box office take makes it worthwhile.
[Editor's Note: At all of 1 minute, 37 seconds into the Bubble Boy DVD, I realized exactly how it would end. Sure enough, Bubble Boy sets the record for obviousness -- which, if you can believe it, is outmatched only by the commentary track included with the disc. Unfathomable.]
No love for bubble boys.