Aug 14, 2015

[Movies] Bubble Boy (2001)

So after watching more recent Jake Gyllenhaal movies like Nightcrawler, I had this nagging to finally watch Bubble Boy from start to finish. It was one of those movies that I sorta wanted to see but never got around to it. But then when I discovered the magic of Jake Gyllenhaal, I was surprised to find out that this was part of his filmography.

And Bubble Boy is a pretty strange comedy. I was sort of curious about the movie back in the day because of the whole premise of a person without an immune system. But maybe I was thinking too much from a science fiction geek perspective and thus had no idea it was a much lighter comedy.

And the nature of the comedy turned out to be a little more adult that I thought it would be. And I'm not talking about silly sexual innuendo making up most of the punchlines (although they're still there), but I just wasn't expecting some of the directions that they took in this movie. This is by no means a great movie, but it does have its moments of decent comedy.

Plus Jake is still oddly cute.

Synopsis: Bubble Boy is a 2001 comedy movie directed by Blair Hayes. The screenplay was written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, as inspired by the 1976 movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. The writers also created a stage musical based on the story.

Jimmy Livingston (Jake Gyllenhaal) was somehow born without an immune system, and thus the only way his family could bring him home was to build an elaborate sterilized dome in his bedroom and long with a network of tubes to give him access to places like the bathroom or the dining area. His over protective and extremely devout Christian mother (Swoosie Kurtz) thus dedicates her life to raising him well and also isolating him from potential sources of sin and the like. Thus he only has access to Highlights magazine and episodes of Land of the Lost.

By the time Jimmy has reached his teenage years, he spies the new neighbors and their daughter Chloe (Marley Shelton), and he quickly becomes smitten with her. Chloe in turn becomes curious about the supposed "bubble boy" next door and decides to visit him and the two quickly form an interesting friendship. But as they both grow older, circumstances threaten to pull them apart, especially when Chloe gets engaged to Mark (Dave Sheridan). She tells Jimmy that they're going to get married at Niagara Falls, and eventually he decides to find a way to follow her and somehow stop the wedding given his feelings about her.

There core premise of this movie is pretty crazy, but it definitely works on some level. You have the over the top mother with her Jesus cakes and questionable versions of fairy tales that stress the need to never leave home lest they day. I enjoyed all this and eventually Jimmy's journey in his strange jury-rigged personal bubble dome as he makes his way to Chloe.

Jake is totally adorkable here, even though he doesn't seem to have the rippling physique that more people have used as reason to like him in recent years. This is definitely him in a more raw period of his acting career, but it totally worked for this role. He just really threw himself into the role and his goofy smiles and stares pretty much sell the character.

The plot though leaves something to be desired, since it feels like all the effort went into crafting the premise, and then that's about it. A lot of the various people that Jimmy meets during his journey are all outlandish characters of a more stereotypical nature, and by the end of things all of them seem to have a reason to go chasing after Jimmy. It feels like they decided to adapt the movie from the narrative structure of The Blues Brothers movies just short of having big car chases and piles of broken police cars. It sort of worked before for those older movies. It didn't quite work out perfectly here.

But hey, maybe I'm taking the movie a bit too seriously. It's funny but not that funny and some bits will drag out while others just don't make sense. But props to Jake Gyllenhaal for being such a trooper and totally committing to the role, regardless of its relative stupidity. This is not the sort of movie that advances one's movie career all that much, so give credit to him for getting to where he is today despite this quirky yet somewhat fascinating movie.

Bubble Boy is not your typical fare but it has its moments, even though the comedic sensibilities feel a little dated. And when in doubt, at least you get to see more Jake Gyllenhaal. Thus the movie only gets 3 strange groups chasing after Jimmy out of a possible 5.

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