Disney's bubble-headed blunder

Movie: Bubble Boy

Bubble Boy
Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Website: http://bventertainment.go.com/movies/bubbleboy/ie.html
Release Date: 2001-08-31
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Marley Shelton, Swoosie Kurtz, Geoffrey Arend, John Carroll Lynch
Director: Blair Hayes
Screenwriter: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Michael Kalesniko
Music Score: John Ottman
WorkNameSort: Bubble Boy
Our Rating: 1.00

Marcia Boyle, a Maryland mother of a 23-year-old man with life-threatening immune deficiencies, is one of several parents, doctors and other concerned parties urging a boycott of "Bubble Boy," a crude wannabe comedy from former ad director Blair Hayes. It's yet another "controversy" sparked by a Disney film: Boyle, founder of the 15,000-member Immune Deficiency Foundation, along with Jennifer Davidson, mother of two daughters who died from the disease, and Carol Ann Demaret, whose late son David inspired the 1976 film "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble," have variously asked the Mouse House to pull the release. Not gonna happen.

In theory, I'd be first in line to picket theaters where "Bubble Boy" is playing. But, at the risk of sounding insensitive (boycotters, keep repeating to yourselves: "It's only a movie"), my primary goal would be convincing Eisner and Co. to quit greenlighting projects with as little potential as this piece of dreck, a routinely unfunny road trip concerning the misadventures of the title character, Jimmy Livingston (Jake Gyllenhaal, doing sort of a cut-rate Brendan Fraser act).

In a just world, this amateurish exercise in nonsense would have gone straight to video, or, better yet, straight to development hell. It's easily the worst movie of the year, the longest 84 minutes I've spent in a theater since the ill-fated "Town & Country." Who thought this premise was promising? And where might I find the guilty parties?

Those moms and others upset by the very existence of such a character as the bubble boy in a comedy might take some solace in the movie's overall approach: Hayes, along with rookie screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, are equal opportunity offenders.

They take potshots at Christianity, via Jimmy's Bible-quoting mom (Swoosie Kurtz), joke about old-age infirmities (by way of the incontinence of an ancient character played by rubber-jawed actor Patrick Cranshaw). There are stereotypes of a Hindu believer from India (Brian George), a Latino biker (Danny Trejo), a Chinese emcee (Ping Wu) and a gang of folks with physical deformities or handicaps, including Dr. Phreak (Verne J. Troyer, a.k.a. Mini Me), Flipper Boy (Geoffrey Arend) and Human Sasquatch (Matthew McGrory).

Want more examples of the movie's overall offensiveness? Mrs. Livingston, at one point, makes a wisecrack about Jews and money; the casual anti-Semitic remark was met with dead silence at the screening. Another character makes this comment, regarding her friendship with emotionally and mentally handicapped persons: "I used to play spin the bottle with the kid from special ed."

The plot, if you choose to call it such, centers on Jimmy's efforts to escape his overprotective parents, played by Kurtz and John Carroll Lynch, and make his way across the country to Niagara Falls, N.Y. He hopes to stop his cute next-door neighbor (Marley Shelton of "Pleasantville" and "Sugar and Spice") from marrying a mullet-headed Mr. Wrong (Dave Sheridan of "Scary Movie"). Along the way, he runs into the above characters, along with a religious cult, headed by Fabio, convinced that the bubble boy is their new messiah.

"Bubble Boy," believe it or not, is promising at the start. It opens with a shot of a baby Jimmy falling from the sky, and quickly sums up the first few years of his life. It's a quirky, exuberance blast, abetted by pop music (the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It be Nice") that's somewhat reminiscent of "Rushmore." The bubble quickly bursts, though, and hope for redemption hisses out of the thing faster that you might imagine. Are we done here?

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