At the Movies: 'Bubble Boy'
By Anthony Breznican
AP Entertainment Writer
|"Bubble Boy" is rated PG-13 for profanity and crude sexual humor. Running time: 84 minutes.|
"Bubble Boy" is an hour-and-a-half of exploitation. The worst of it is watching people with heartbreaking physical deformities cavort as self-described "freaks," and hearing nasty stereotypes of Jews, Hindus and Hispanics played for laughs.
The movie chronicles the adventures of Jimmy (Jake Gyllenhaal of "October Sky"), a boy who must live in a sterile environment because he was supposedly born with no immune system.
This is the "Freddy Got Fingered" version of John Travolta's 1976 TV movie "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble."
Parents of children with immune deficiencies have protested "Bubble Boy," saying it makes light of a serious disorder that isolates its victims and kills most of them at a young age. The concept of a boy trapped in a self-contained device could have been a good one for comedy, but with this disorder it requires care and consideration i not the cruel bungling we get here.
Director Blair Hayes and three screenwriters do find an interesting subtext, using the boy's closed world as a metaphor for religious fundamentalism i but they waste it.
Since Jimmy can live only in a plastic tent, his knowledge of the world comes from his mother (Swoosie Kurtz), a misguided Christian who stamps cookies in the shape of the cross and instills her son with a disrespect for other faiths. Maybe the filmmakers were trying to make a point about ignorance when she slurs other groups, but only people who share her bigotry would find those jokes funny.
Gyllenhaal plays Jimmy as an obnoxious cartoon, with none of the humanity or emotion he demonstrated so well as the lonely dreamer in "October Sky." Maybe the bubble boy's exploits would have been funnier if we cared at all about him.
Kurtz's performance is also unlikable and shrill; with her fire-red hair she seems like Lucille Ball playing Archie Bunker.
Jimmy grows tired of his isolation and constructs a "bubble suit" that enables him to go outside while still protected from microbes. He leaves home because he must get to Niagara Falls to stop a beautiful neighbor (Marley Shelton of "Pleasantville") from marrying the wrong man.
He encounters some cult members, a growling Hispanic biker, and a collection of deformed people in a sideshow.
Verne Troyer (Mini-Me from the "Austin Powers" sequel) appears as the sideshow mogul, while beefcake model Fabio has a cameo as a cult leader. Both roles are laughless, as if the filmmakers thought casting those famous faces was funny in itself.
The rest of "Bubble Boy" is just a lot of slapstick that even die-hard Three Stooges aficionados would find tiresome.
The bubble boy is hit by a bus, but bounces back. He's thrown from a motorcycle, but bounces back. He falls out of a car, but bounces back.
Guess what happens when he falls out of an airplane?
It's still not funny.