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Bouncing after the girl of his dreams

'Bubble Boy' bursting with dumb humor


By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer

(CNN) -- Disney's latest comedy, "Bubble Boy," is generating more than laughs.

The film's screenplay, by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, features a young boy, Jimmy Livingston (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is born without an immune system and is raised in a gigantic plastic bubble. He refuses to let his inability thwart him in his quest for true love, taking his desire -- and himself, clad in a bulbous plastic suit -- on the road.


Carol Ann Demaret and a foundation for people with immune deficiencies think not. Demaret's son David was born without an immune system, and was the inspiration for the 1976 TV drama "The Boy In The Plastic Bubble," starring John Travolta. Demaret reportedly feels "The Bubble Boy" is disrespectful to the memory of her son, who died in 1984 at the age of 12, and an insult to everyone suffering from any type of immune deficiency.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Marley Shelton star in 'Bubble Boy' (August 22)

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With all due respect, "Bubble Boy" isn't about a disease. The film is really about an obsessively over-protective mother (played by Swoosie Kurtz) who's willing to move heaven and hell to keep "all the wickedness and filth the world has to offer" away from her little boy.

Yes, the fact that he lives in a bubble is treated in an absurd way, but this is an absurd movie. Jimmy's affliction is just a device to showcase his mother's neuroses, and to set up some dramatic (and comic) tension when he leaves his bubble, donning an idiotic portable plastic suit so he can stop the girl of his dreams from marrying the wrong guy.

Gags galore

There is nothing in this film that comes close to resembling any kind of reality. This is an insane, inane comedy; protesting that this piece of summer fluff has the weight to affect anyone's opinion on anything is giving it way too much importance.

Now whether this is a good movie is a whole other debate. Talk about underestimating intelligence: There isn't an iota of intelligence anywhere near this film. "Bubble Boy" is a full-throttle adolescent gag-fest.

It's also funny. This is due in large part to the easygoing charm of the film's leading man. Gyllenhaal (best known for his role in "October Sky," 1999) sports a weird haircut which makes him look disturbingly like k.d. lang, but his wide-eyed innocence and sense of wonder carry the film through many rough spots.

Kurtz is also outstanding, but what else is new? Her timing is impeccable, and the burning intensity she brings to her overly controlling, out-of-control character almost turns her into a force of nature as she chases her son across the country.

Yes, "Bubble Boy," is also a road-trip comedy. Jimmy's in love with Chloe (Marley Shelton), the girl next door. They spend hours together as children, despite Jimmy's mother's disapproval, and as they mature Jimmy slowly falls in love with the only girl he's ever known.

But he's in there and she's out there; nothing can ever happen between them. She finally gets engaged to another guy and heads across the country to get married.

That's when Jimmy has an epiphany: He loves her and must risk everything to stop her from marrying the wrong man. He builds a portable plastic suit and off he goes.

Duuuude, it's dumb

Of course, it's no easy trip. He meets freaks, geeks, bikers, cult members and even lady mud wrestlers who either help or hinder him on his romantic quest.

Utterly stupid and devoid of any redeeming features, "Bubble Boy" manages to be much better than it has any right to be. For a teen comedy, it's remarkably lacking in toilet humor, although other standard gags are used.

(Yes, there is a scene involving road kill. Apparently Tom Green isn't the only one who thinks there's something funny about big, dead animals in the middle of a highway.)

There's no doubt this is aimed directly at cinema's lowest common denominator and biggest summer audience -- teens. Others might also find it funny.

I did. But I hated myself in the morning.

Bubble Boy" opens nationwide on Friday, August 24, and is rated PG-13 with a running time of 84 minutes.

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