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Review: Bubble Boy

The film’s absurdist scenarios bring to mind Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

Bubble Boy
Photo: Buena Vista Pictures

Who knew that Disney could turn a potentially insipid project like Bubble Boy into a naïve boy’s raucous journey through a spiritually confused American landscape? Director Blair Hayes humorously and efficiently details the events that left Jimmy Livingston (Jake Gyllenhaal) isolated from the world in a germ-free plastic bubble. Mrs. Livingston (Swoosie Kurtz) is the caricature of a isolated suburban housewife, a Bible-thumper so sexually-repressed that she advises her son to sing The Pledge of Allegiance when he gets his first erection. Chloe (Marley Shelton) moves in next door and they quickly become friends. Years later, she announces that she’ll be leaving town to marry her boyfriend at Niagra Falls. Jimmy is miserable but decides to take matters into his own hands, building a portable plastic bubble that will take him to the New York chapel so he can stop the wedding. Jimmy is now forced to negotiate the horrors of the world around him via series of absurdist scenarios that bring to mind Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Jimmy, though, is no Pee Wee—he’s too dopey and abstract a paradigm of naïveté to ring entirely true as a fully-conscious journeyman. The film, in the end, is less about Jimmy than the world that put him inside his bubble. The kitschy TV show “The Land of the Lost” is the only access Jimmy has to the world of pop culture, and as such his own mythic journey comes to resemble a series of postmodern skits negotiating culture, gender, race, sexuality and religion for the young boy. Cult TV actor Patrick Cranshaw makes a hysterical joint-appearance as Pippy and Pappy, two geezers looking for their lost Punani. Hayes and his trio of writers take unflinching jabs at a group of Jesus freaks, uproariously casting über-icon Fabio as their leader. The burlesque book cover model leads the group to believe that Jimmy is their God, setting in motion a frenzied reconnaissance mission that pits the cult against a Hindu ice-cream salesman, a gang of bikers and a community of circus freaks. All more or less seek social validation by feeding off Jimmy’s repressive glow.

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Marley Shelton, Swoosie Kurtz, Danny Trejo, Dave Sheridan, John Carroll Lynch, Brian Gattas, Arden Myrin, Geoffrey Arend Director: Blair Hayes Screenwriter: Ken Daurio, Michael Kalesniko, Cinco Paul Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures Running Time: 84 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2001 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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