Summer is the time to release the most vulgar movies, and
that's OK. Really it is, because films are redeemed if they are
funny. "American Pie" and even its epigonous sequel, fine.
Making out with a pastry doesn't even take the cake in the world
of the uncouth, which received new impetus with "There's
Something About Mary." Ditto Kevin Smith's New Jersey trilogy,
all of which make for good, unwholesome entertainment, even
the pretentious "Dogma" thanks to some crackerjack acting
especially by Jason Mewes and Chris Rock. But when a movie
is both coarse and unfunny, that's just downright embarrassing.
When a story makes gratuitous fun of the handicapped--of
people who are cruelly exhibited in freak shows, especially if they
legitimately have stumps where arms should be or if they are
three feet tall and act in a repulsive manner--that's a pity. When
a tale depends on racist barbs and paints religious groups as the
most loathsome caricatures, that's desperation. That's not all.
The topper in Blair Hayes disgraceful creation, "Bubble Boy," is
the cop-out conclusion which is a slap in the face--make that an
altogether knockout punch--at every unfortunate person who
must spend a life suffering with a major disability with little hope
"Bubble Boy," which is fiction but could be based broadly on
any number of hapless individuals with illnesses who must spend
their lives encased in sterile plastic, focuses on Jimmy Livingston
(Jake Gyllenhaal), born with a severe immune deficiency.
According to his mom, even a single germ could kill him. Cared
for by an overprotective and ferociously religious mother
(Swoosie Kurtz) and a mostly silent father (John Carroll Lynch),
Jimmy discovers love, or at least lust, when he observes his
next-door neighbor, the sexy Chloe (Marley Shelton),
provocatively washing her car. After she visits with him a few
times, they develop an affection for each other, but when Chloe
realizes the impracticality of marriage with Jimmy and announces
impending nuptials in Niagara Falls with the idiotic rock singer
Mark (Dave Sheridan), Jimmy decides to stop playing it safe. He
constructs a portable bubble, sneaks out of the house for the first
time in his life, and "Bubble Boy" becomes a road movie. And,
oh, the bubble becomes (are you ready for this) a METAPHOR
for playing life too safe!!
As the title figure hits the road, getting lifts along the way while
chased by his parents, first-time director Blair Hayes cuts loose
with Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio's racist and moronic screenplay
to introduce us to a spaced-out religious cult, a friendly biker,
Slim (Danny Trejo), an obnoxious Dr. Phreak (Verne Troyer) who
leads a circus of miserable-looking aberrations, a couple of
centenarians named Pappy and Pippy (Patrick Cranshaw) whose
taxi is followed by a buzzard, an Asian-American at a strip club
who in the most blatantly stereotyped manner shouts "500
dollars! 500 dollars!" as though he were one of those Japanese
soldiers in a 1943 B-movie shouting "bonzai! bonzai!" and an
East Indian selling ice cream and curry from his truck, who prays
over a cow he has run down and killed and who is further
humiliated when the poor creature is run over once again
splattering its remains on his forehead. Are we laughing yet? If
not, there's an anti-Jewish joke you haven't heard. Mrs.
Livingston tells it. A howler.
I can understand Jake Gyllenhaal's presence in this movie. He
was in "October Sky" but he hasn't yet made his mark. And Blair
Hayes is making his debut. But Swoosie Kurtz? One of the finest
performers on the off-Broadway stage? For shame! This is the
first movie of the year that I've hated. Every minute.
The picture is said to be based on the life of David Vetter and
as such is considered an insult by David's mother, Carol Ann
Demaret. Ms. Demaret told the Houston Chronicle in a story
posted August 15 that David, who suffered a rare genetic
deficiency and died in 1984 at the age of 12, had learned of the
film only a few weeks before its opening when she saw a report
on Entertainment Tonight and would have been OK with it if the
movie had a different name but insists that only David had the
name of Bubble Boy. "His life was not a comedy," she states
about the lad who was the only boy who had lived in a bubble
from birth. She believes the film mocks her son's memory. What
do you think?
Copyright © 2001 Harvey Karten