by Paul Fischer
Voted “Worst Film of 2001” by Paul Fischer. Now, there’s a ringing endorsement.
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Bubble Boy follows the life of Jimmy Livingston (Jake Gyllenhaal), a young man born without immunities and raised in a manufactured world provided by his well-intentioned but misguided mother (Swoosie Kurtz). When the girl-next-door whom he worships (Marley Shelton) rushes off to Niagara Falls with her new rock star fiancé, he builds himself a bubble suit to help him travel fast and sets out on a cross-country trek to find her and win her back. Along the way he has many absurd and comedic adventures.
The first thing that impressed me when seeing Bubble Boy is how woeful it became the more I endured sitting through it. Up there with Freddy Got Fingered as one of the year’s most moronic films, Bubble Boy actually thinks it’s smart and edgy. Compared to what? Bubble gum? When the film’s director tries to compare his film with Voltaire’s Candide, then you know you’re in trouble. Bubble Boy is a film that clearly didn’t get past a first draft, because if it thinks it’s an intelligent, edgy comedy, then its makers really have no clue. Any time you have a film full of stereotypes, to which the filmmakers gleefully respond with “Well, you know, that’s the point,” you can’t help but think that audiences will react to those stereotypes. Ah yes, that teen audience from America’s mid-west or Bible belt will surely think “that’s the point” when, yet again, Jews are implied misers. Have we gone this far in our culture? Apparently so.
Bubble Boy is a dumb comedy pretending to be smart, and that’s unfortunate. Nothing here is remotely original. We live in an age of the new comedy, the one in which more (or less) is good and subtle is weak. Here is a film which takes farce to levels of awkwardness devoid of any comic development, perhaps due to first-time director Blair Hayes’s feeble direction, or to the severe miscasting of the usually thoughtful Jake Gyllenhaal, or the insipid performance of pretty Marley Shelton. As for Swoosie Kurtz, I’m not too certain what it is this brilliant actress is doing in this considerably awful film.
Bubble Boy is an annoying movie to sit through, even at the (still lengthy) eighty-odd minutes of running time. Annoying because, conceptually, it should never have been green-lighted; but hey, let’s inflict more cinematic stupidity on our young. Hopefully, they’ll stay away in droves and the bubble will burst on what is close to being the worst film of the year.
Bubble Boy opened Friday, August 24, 2001, nationwide.
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
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