As if the first 80 minutes of “Bubble Boy” were not insufferable enough, the last four insult the intelligence of the viewer beyond all hope of redemption. The film has written itself into a corner by putting its protagonist in a lose-lose situation, then gets out of it by suddenly changing the rules, chickening out, and making everything that occurred in the first 80 minutes a lie. It’s not an “it was all just a dream” scenario, but it’s almost as bad.
This is almost beside the point, though, except to show what a bad idea this movie was in the first place: How could anyone have thought this would turn out good with such a cheat ending?
The situation is that Jimmy Livingston (Jake Gyllenhaal) was born without an immune system, which means even one germ could kill him. As a result, he has grown up in a large plastic bubble, which protects him from germs, doted on by his hypocritical religious zealot mother (Swoosie Kurtz), who protects him from The World.
Mom reads him fairy tales like Pinocchio: “Then Pinocchio came out of his plastic bubble, touched the filthy whore next door, and died.” This object lesson is necessary because Jimmy, now a teen-ager, has been eyeing the lovely Chloe (Marley Shelton) from his bedroom window. She starts up a friendship with him, but since she cannot enter his bubble and be with him physically, she eventually gets frustrated and heads off to Niagara Falls to marry a jerk named Mark (Dave Sheridan).
Finally roused to action, Jimmy constructs a bubble just big enough for his body and sets off for Niagara. Along the way, he encounters an Up with People-type musical group that is actually a religious cult. (The cult leader is Fabio, who also had a cameo in “Dude, Where’s My Car?,” which was also a straightforward stupid movie with a lot of weird, fantastical angles to it. For that matter, the guy who plays Mark looks just like Seann William Scott, who was in “Dude.” How very cosmic.) He also meets a biker (Danny Trejo) who has one of the film’s three funny lines (a play on “We don’t need no stinking badges!” from “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”) and who encourages Jimmy to go for the gold, live without regret, carpe diem, and so forth. He also runs afoul of a freak show led by Vern Troyer, who played Mini-Me in “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.” He also bumps into … oh, forget it.
Gyllenhaal, a talented actor who made a splash in “October Sky,” performs with gusto the terrible script set before him. He speaks in an annoying nerd voice, though, which doesn’t make his one-dimensional character any more tolerable.
This is a garish, tawdry film, a mean-spirited trainwreck with virtually no redeeming qualities. It does not roll in the filth like so many comedies do these days, but it does dip its toe into the mud, while also slapping around a few religions and other groups.
It was directed by Blair Hayes and written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio — all first-timers, and it shows. Such ineptness comes only through inexperience or head trauma. Another movie like this, and there’ll be head traumas all around.
D (; )
In 2012, I reconsidered this movie for my Re-Views column at Film.com.