Bubble Boy

2001, Movie, PG-13, 90 mins


A coming-of-age comedy in which a naive lad hits the road in hopes of stopping his soon-to-be-wed sweetheart from marrying the wrong guy. Along the way, he hooks up with a variety of bizarre characters, including a van full of pious weirdos, a bunch of tattooed bikers and a gang of runaway freaks. The movie's side-splitting comic conceit: Not only has sheltered, 17-year-old Jimmy Livingston (Jake Gyllenhaal) been raised by a fanatically religious mother (Swoosie Kurtz), but he was born without an immune system and has spent his life in a plastic bubble. Shunned by the neighborhood kids, young Jimmy was befriended by Chloe (Marley Shelton), the kind of only-in-the-movies girl next door who's as kind as she is gorgeous. Jimmy is afraid to declare his love for Chloe, so she begins dating a local goon (Dave Sheridan). As soon as the couple head for Niagara Falls to get married, Jimmy realizes he's made an awful mistake. So he whips up a travel-sized bubble and embarks on a cross-country trip from Palmdale, Calif., to New York, hoping to stop Chloe's impending wedding. Of course, the penniless Jimmy must rely on the kindness of strangers, and make no mistake, each benefactor is stranger than the one before. Jimmy gets a lift from a bunch of preternaturally cheerful "Bright and Shiny" cultists, who worship at the altar of Gil (male model Fabio). He's befriended by a scary looking biker (Danny Trejo) with a heart of gold, shares a train car with a bunch of kind-hearted human anomolies who are being held captive by the diminutive Dr. Phreak (Verne Troyer) and is rescued from murderous hicks by Pushpak (Brian George), who plans to convert the world to Hinduism with his delicious ice cream. Throughout his mishap-filled journey, David retains a Candide-like sweetness and optimism about his future. Hard though this antic farce tries to be outrageous, its satirical jabs at American culture are obvious and juvenile, as is the use of Jimmy's plastic bubble as a goofy metaphor for fear of life. The family of the late David Vetter — the real life "bubble boy" who lived his short life in germ-free isolation — proposed a boycott based on what they perceived as the film's callous mockery of a heartbreaking disorder. They should have ignored the film and let it choke quietly on its own sheer stupidity. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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