April 14, 2014

Podcast Episode 12: BUBBLE BOY Remains An Irrational Favorite

"Dog poo?  THIS IS AWESOME!"
This is the episode which proved that I need to get better microphones.

It's important to revisit films from time to time in order to see if our memories of them still hold true.  Sometimes the movies we thought were so fantastic as children turn out to be decidedly less so when viewed through the lens of adulthood.  (I'm looking at you, Hook.)  At the same time, some movies that we may have once dismissed as dull or confusing can take on new life with a more mature perspective.  (Close Encounters is an all-time favorite, but I didn't truly appreciate as a child.)

And then some movies are exactly they way you remember them.  Bubble Boy is just such a movie.

I wish I could remember how I discovered this zany road trip comedy starring a young Jake Gyllenhaal as Jimmy Livingston, a wide-eyed and housebound kid with no immunities who builds himself a bubble suit and takes off for Niagara Falls in order to stop the woman he loves from marrying her tool of a boyfriend.  I must have stumbled upon the thing on TV and in all likelihood I was far from sober when I first saw it, but I was totally won over by Gyllenhaal's endearing performance and the sheer insanity of the characters and situations he encounters.  Don't believe me?  At one point Jimmy gets picked up by a busload of energetic and identically dressed eunuchs all named Todd and Lorraine whose cult (called Bright & Shiny!) is led by Fabio.  There's also a biker gang led by Danny Trejo, a train of circus freaks led by Verne Troyer (a.k.a. Mini Me) and Jimmy's ultra-Christian mother (Swoosie Kurtz) and near-silent father (John Carroll Lynch) all hot on his trail.

I'd hardly refer to Bubble Boy as an objectively good movie, but by all rights it should have been much, MUCH worse.  Most of the credit goes to Gyllenhaal, whose essentially a big lovable puppy dog trapped in a transparent beach ball.  That might seem hard to believe considering the dark and dour roles he's been playing of late, but he's downright hilarious.  There isn't an ounce of irony or malice in Jimmy, and Gyllenhaal has enough natural charm to smooth over some of the script's rougher patches.  It's just hard not to love the kid and you want to see him win the hand of "the whore next door."  And while most of the road trip stuff still absolutely kills me, I think it's the stuff before Jimmy sets out on his journey that really makes everything else work so well.  The relationship between Jimmy and his mother is just as funny and heartfelt as it is terrifying and awful; he loves her unreservedly and she really does want what's best for him, even if she does make all the wrong choices towards that end.  Their relationship is perhaps best summed up in the scene where Jimmy gets his first erection and tries to smash it with a baseball bat, at which point his mother rushes in and rather than explain what's happening, instead teaches him how to make it go away by saying the Pledge Of Allegiance over and over again.

Everyone in this movie is essentially a living cartoon character, right down to the Asian mud wrestling MC screaming about $500 and the Indian driver of an ice cream/curry truck.  But that doesn't make it any less funny.  Bart, newcomer Fernando and I had all seen Bubble Boy many times before and it's almost alarming just how often we find ourselves quoting this movie.  But we hadn't watched it (certainly not together) in many years, so I was curious to see just how well it would hold up.

It totally held up.

Jamie was far less taken with it, finding the story extremely predictable and the characters far too silly, but that's a justifiable criticism and not all that surprising.  While our individual tastes have a lot of overlap, when it comes to comedy Bart and I tend to revel a bit more in the sophomoric and the absurd than Jamie does.  Suffice it to say that Bubble Boy hits us right in the sweet spot.  I may never be able to looks at it objectively, but in this case I'm fine with that.  I'll admit that there's way too much Blink-182 in this movie, but the simple truth is that Gyllenhaal's shouts of glee after stepping in a pile of dog shit still make me laugh.  And that's good enough for me.

Episode 12 also includes some thoughts on the sure-to-be godless Battlestar Galactica movie, the pitfalls of a Sinister Six movie, Fox's plans for a new crop of X-Men spinoffs and whether or not Stephen Colbert can somehow elevate the tone of The Late Show.  We do get a bit shouty in this one so the audio is a bit dicey at times.  Like I said, I need better microphones.

I know we promised you an episode dedicated to Cheap Thrills, one of my favorite films of last year, but the local midnight screening was unexpectedly rescheduled for this coming weekend.  We'll definitely be in attendance at the Coolidge this Friday night, but I'm also going on vacation the next day with limited Wifi service for the following week.  Bart and I will certainly be discussing Cheap Thrills, but it probably won't be until May.

Title: Bubble Boy
Director: Blair Hayes
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Swoosie Kurtz, Marley Shelton, Danny Trejo, Verne Troyer, John Carroll Lynch, Brian George
Year Of Release: 2001
Viewing Method: DVD

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