Plagued by hankie-tugging character arcs (Travolta’s movie-of-the-week highlight) or conceived as punch lines (Seinfeld‘s immunodeficient churl), polyethylene-wrapped freaks rarely gain admittance to Tinseltown’s proactive pantheon. Sensing these inherent pitfalls, the coke-fried gibbons behind Bubble Boy came to a trailblazing conclusion: The ideal filmic oddity is white, male, and—a mother’s deception notwithstanding—perfectly healthy. And perfectly self-actualizing, too, with the aid of some other hoary big-screen stereotypes.
God-fearing Reaganite Mrs. Livingston (Swoosie Kurtz as Piper Laurie in Carrie) does have some valid concerns about who her cured-at-four bubble tot Jimmy (Jake Gyllenhaal as Jason Biggs as Adam Sandler) might encounter should he be loosed from his Mommy-controlled biosphere. “Whore next door” Chloe (Marley Shelton) has pert breasts, blond hair, and a lone brain cell, which she devotes to Jimmy’s beloved Land of the Lost; it’s news of the little tart’s imminent nuptials that spurs our Ziploc’d hero off on a cross-country waddle. As if commingling with plasticine females weren’t bad enough, Jimmy soon forms attachments to various out-‘n’-out weirdos: pugnacious yet sympathetic Hispanics (they ride motorcycles), jittery Hindu curry peddlers (they deify cows), and English-mauling Asians (they’d rather be speaking Asian). Hollywood monstrosities all, and boy are they scary!
These ethnic curiosities only want to help our Jimmy, to make his great white hope a reality. There’s circus grotesques too, and Fabio, and numerous others who, through the exploitation of the very deviance that first rendered them so freaky, are meant to worm their way into our hardened hearts. Indeed, by the time Bubble Boy hiccups its way to Jimmy’s triumphant, plastic-shedding reunion with Chloe, it’s a wonder the black preacher overseeing the lass’s ill-fated wedding doesn’t bust a move or two for diversity’s sake. The film’s point is clear: Gals, immigrants, midgets, we can all embrace our shortcomings. It just takes a special sort of man to burst the bubble he’s been placed in.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 28, 2001