Bubble Boy

Bubble Boy

2001, PG-13, 84 min. Directed by Blair Hayes. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Swoosie Kurtz, Marley Shelton, Danny Trejo, John Carroll Lynch, Verne Troyer, Dave Sheridan, Brian George, Patrick Crenshaw.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Aug. 24, 2001

It's a shame if the controversy surrounding Bubble Boy distracts people from what a smart, subversive, and genuinely good-hearted film it is. Protest groups have asked Disney to yank the picture -- about a boy born without immunities -- arguing it trivializes the disease. I'd argue the film treats IMD with nothing but respect; in fact, it's probably the only thing this brilliantly, wickedly funny film respects. Born without the ability to stave off germs, Jimmy Livingston has lived in his sanitized, solitary bubble since age 4. He's physically and psychically bubble-wrapped; his Donna Reed cum Joseph Stalin mom (Kurtz) bakes then disinfects crucifix cookies for a teenage Jimmy (Gyllenhaal) while instructing him how to get rid of his first erection by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (more than a few theories on that one). Jimmy's naïve, insular world is exploded when Chloe (Shelton), the girl next door (or: “that slut!” as his mother spits repeatedly), starts visiting. First comes friendship, next comes a funny feeling for both of them -- and yes, much patriotic recitation for Jimmy -- but then Chloe runs off to Niagara Falls to marry a schlep. What's a lovesick bubble boy to do? Build a portable bubble and chase his girl across the continental United States, that's what! And that's when the inspired madness of Bubble Boy truly kicks in. On his journey, Jimmy meets a band of circus performers; a Hindu traveling salesman hawking ice cream and curry; a cult of god-crazed kids all named either Lorraine or Todd. There's a definite John Waters and Tim Burton influence: First-time feature director Blair Hayes' visual style is just as thrilling as those elder statesmen of the carnival aesthetic, and at its core, Bubble Boy pushes for the embracing of people whom most would call “freaks” (and Waters and Burton would probably call “drinking buddies”). I'm not sure if 13-year-olds will get the frequent and scathing satire in the piece, but they will get the real message: You're just as big a freak as I am. And that's just how it should be.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Jake Gyllenhaal Films
Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant
War flick about the US exit from Afghanistan sabotaged by a weak script

Dex Wesley Parra, April 21, 2023

Strange World
Disney animated adventure revamps pulp fun with a story of fathers and sons

Richard Whittaker, Nov. 25, 2022

More by Kimberley Jones
Five Deeper-Cut Panels to Catch at ATX TV Festival
Five Deeper-Cut Panels to Catch at ATX TV Festival
It’s go time, TV nerds

May 29, 2024

Hit Man
Glen Powell co-wrote this real-life wild tale of a professor who goes undercover as a fake hitman

May 24, 2024


Bubble Boy, Blair Hayes, Jake Gyllenhaal, Swoosie Kurtz, Marley Shelton, Danny Trejo, John Carroll Lynch, Verne Troyer, Dave Sheridan, Brian George, Patrick Crenshaw

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle