In Blair Hayes's BUBBLE BOY, Chloe would sure like to burst Jimmy
Livingston's bubble. She's the blonde bombshell next door, and Jimmy is a
kid with a Mixmaster haircut. Born without an immune system, Jimmy is
forced to live inside a bubble in this film inspired by THE BOY IN THE
PLASTIC BUBBLE with John Travolta. This time Jake Gyllenhaal, the star of
OCTOBER SKY, is wonderful as Jimmy, and Marley Shelton, Tobey Maguire's
girlfriend from PLEASANTVILLE, is equally charming as Chloe.
Yes, I know. By now, you've read all of the politically correct reviews
that warn you against this film. Well, I'm here to tell that this equal
opportunity profaner -- it skewers Christians, cultists, bikers,
Republicans, circus freaks, and numerous other religions and groups -- is
the most underrated film of the year. While it's not a great film by any
stretch of the imagination, it is a comedy that had me laughing hard and
often. This Disney film is a lot funnier than most of the recent offerings
by more famous filmmakers like the Farrelly Brothers (OSMOSIS JONES and ME,
MYSELF AND IRENE).
Swoosie Kurtz does a nice turn as Mrs. Livingston, Jimmy's ultra religious
mother who likes the way that Jimmy's bubble keeps him separated from the
world's filth. She doesn't think much of Chloe, calling her a whore.
Chloe, however, insists that she's actually just a bitch. In reality, she
is a virgin, who is neither bitch nor whore. She is also almost a dead
ringer for Heather Graham, who might have trouble playing a credible virgin.
When Jimmy goes missing -- most of the movie is a road trip as Jimmy goes to
stop Chloe's wedding near Niagara Falls -- Mrs. Livingston gives the police
a piece of her mind. "You'll be in my prayers tonight," she assures the
policeman on the phone when he refuses to take a missing person report until
Jimmy has been gone for 48 hours. "I'll be praying that you get nut
Not all of the jokes are sexual or bathroom humor. One of my favorites is a
sort of a takeoff on the line from TOOTSIE about how far the camera needed
to pull back to properly shoot Tootsie. Jimmy, who has never been out of
the house, tries to use a few coins to pay for his bus trip to Niagara
Falls. "How far will this get me," Jimmy asks a taciturn bus depot agent,
played with hilarious and sarcastic deadpan by Zach Galifianakis. "Take a
step back," the agent says dryly, "that far."
One of the film's best laughs outdoes the now famous crazy glue scene from
AMERICAN PIE 2. When Jimmy is scared and shocked by his first erection, he
doesn't know what to do. Not having a readily available cold shower inside
his bubble, he uses a baseball bat instead. Ouch!
Like RAT RACE, the movie it most resembles, the jokes come fast and
furiously. I haven't had time to tell you about many other parts, including
the cult group called Bright and Shiny who gets in a rumble with a group of
bikers lead by Danny Trejo and circus freaks controlled by Dr. Phreak (Verne
Troyer, best known as Mini-Me). This surprisingly sweet comedy manages to
take on all of society's sacred cows without really being offensive if
people will just approach it with an open mind. On the other hand, if you
already take exception to it and haven't even seen it yet, then it probably
isn't the picture for you.
BUBBLE BOY runs a fast 1:24. It is rated PG-13 for "language and crude
sexual humor" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 12, who laughed some in the movie but not a lot, gave it
**. He said that it was "okay, not the greatest and not the worst."
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes