Bubble Boy

Something very odd happened during Bubble Boy. It was actually funny. It is not, as many people expected, offensive towards kids in bubbles. Instead, it is more an indictment on overbearing, religious parents. Bubble Boy works because its lead character, Jimmy Livingston (Jake Gyllenhaal, October Sky, Homegrown) is so innocent and well meaning. He lives in an ignorance is bliss world, mostly because of his psychotic mother (Swoosie Kurtz, Get Over It, Cruel Intentions). He has no immunities and therefore must live in a bubble, but his mother goes the extra step and shields him from the world at large. Everything changes when he meets his neighbor Chloe (Marley Shelton, Valentine, Sugar & Spice). They become best friends, and when she announces she is getting married, Jimmy realizes that he loves her.

The only thing he can do is build himself a mobile 'bubble' and make his way across the country to declare his love for Chloe. He leaves without telling his parents, which sets up the strangest cross-country trip in recent memory. What makes Bubble Boy funny is director Blair Hayes' refusal to let any joke in Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio's script die. He grasps hold of them and beats them to death, and when the audience forgets about them, he brings them back. Jimmy encounters a bizarre variety of people including a cult that worships Fabio, carnival freaks, and bad caricatures of Hispanics, Chinese, the elderly, and Indians. Well, at least these caricatures are no worse than any other movie out there. They only seem to make everybody flat. They do not come across as offensive (or as offensive as they should) because nearly everybody in the movie has a good heart.

Everyone is looking out for Jimmy. Because of his innocence, he always quickly explains his predicament, which inevitably wins the hearts of his new friends over. They will all do whatever it takes to help him get to Chloe before his wedding. The tone of the movie is so optimistic and Jimmy is so full of awe at his newfound freedom that it is hard to not get caught up in all the proceedings. His attitude is infectious, towards both the people he meets and the audience. Mrs. Livingston is the only mean-spirited one in the bunch, only because of her narrow-mindedness. She wants Jimmy to live a certain way; the way she believes is the 'right' way. She will stop at nothing and let nobody get in the way of 'rescuing' her son. This could be a vicious satirization of fundamentalism, but her character is so overdone that it merely becomes another stereotype.

Gyllenhaal's eager, inspired performance as Jimmy helps things immensely. He looks at the world with reverential eyes. Everything he encounters and experiences is a first for him, and he eats it up with glee. Gyllenhaal bugs his eyes out and seems so happy that he's always shouting. His Jimmy is oblivious to many social conventions, so he looks even odder (aside from the large portable bubble of course). In many of her movies, Shelton plays the perfect, nearly unattainable goddess, which is fairly easy for her to do. Her character is so nice that it's hard to see why she wants to marry her fiance, who of course is a jerk. And of course, she cannot see how much of a jerk he is. Enjoy Bubble Boy for what it is; mindless lunacy and nothing more.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 24 minutes, Rated PG-13 for language and crude sexual humor.

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