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Film: Bubble Boy

Bubble Boy is a 2001 comedy starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the eponymous Bubble Boy, Jimmy Livingston. Raised in a hyper-conservative home by a clingy mother and a nigh-voiceless father, his life is spent reading Highlights magazine, homeschooling, and watching Land of the Lost reruns. When he becomes a teen, a new family moves in next door, including a literal Girl Next Door named Chloe, striking up a close friendship with her. Then, sometime after she graduates from High School, she tells him that she's going to Niagara Falls to get married to her High School Sweetheart in three days... but gives a very blatant hint that she'd prefer to be with Jimmy before leaving (namely, a home-made snowglobe with figures of them inside reading "I love you."). So now Jimmy is on a Race for Your Love across the continental United States to stop the wedding and get the girl. Hilarity Ensues.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the opinion of audiences, as the movie bombed badly, with a budget of $13 Million with only a gross take of $5 Million in the US box office. It has since become something of a Cult Classic.


This comedy film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adult Fear: While his mother's oppressively clingy, to wake up one morning to find your extremely sheltered son has run away from home would definitely be jarring.
  • Badass Biker: Slim, played by Danny Trejo. Surprisingly friendly to Jimmy after he's offered some patches for his wheels, going all the way to Niagara Falls to help out.
  • Bathos: At the finale, Jimmy and Chloe hug in a heartwarming scene... only for the camera to pan out and show he's still wearing cartoon-print underpants.
  • Brick Joke: After the wedding, everyone that Jimmy had encountered on his trip showed up... including the vulture that chased after him in the desert.
  • Bubble Boy: Exactly What It Says on the Tin
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: After hearing that Jimmy had left home, and having second thoughts about the wedding, Chloe is seen watching TV... only to see ads for "Mr. Bubble", Bubblicious bubble-gum, and Don Ho singing "Tiny Bubbles".
  • Cosmic Plaything:
    • Pushpop, a Hindu curry-and-ice-cream vendor who gives Jimmy a ride... only to slam into a cow.
      Pushpop: Have you ever been Karmically bitch-slapped by a six-armed Goddess? (beat) I'll take that as a no!
    • It gets worse — while trying to make amends, the cow's corpse is first run over by a semi, then a gang of bikers headed by Slim, then the Bright & Shiny bus. Pushpop winds up slathered in the blood of the body.
      Pushpop: I'm coming back as a cockroach. Yes, definitely a cock-a-roach.
  • Cutting the Knot: Jimmy actually starts out trying to do the sensible thing and just buy a bus ticket to Niagara Falls. Unfortunately, he only has pocket-change to spend, never having been able to work before.
    Jimmy: How far will this get me?
    Bus Stop Attendant: (click) Take a step back. (Jimmy does so) That far.
  • Dies Wide Shut: This happens to Pappy while he was driving. He gets better, though.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Jimmy, while in a mobile bubble-suit of his own making, has to go from Palmdale, California to Niagara Falls in three days to get the girl.
  • Easily Forgiven: Jimmy's mother, as detailed under The Reveal.
  • Engrish: Utilized by the excitable Asian mud-wrestling emcee.
    Emcee: You want five hundred dolla?
    Jimmy: Yes please, I would like five hundred dollars.
    Emcee: You want five hundred dolla?
    Jimmy: Yes I want five hundred dolla!
    Emcee: Five hundred dolla!
    Jimmy: Five hundred dolla!
  • Everyone Chasing You: The climax of the movie, when Jimmy's being chased by his mother, the Bright & Shinies, the freaks, and Slim's biker gang (now driving Pushpop's ice-cream and curry truck).
  • Fish out of Water: Jimmy, easily. Half the fun is seeing him get into (and out of) some rather bizarre situations that he only ever got into because of his naivete.
  • Foreshadowing: A surprisingly large amount of it prior to Jimmy donning the bubble suit, when his mother talks about those "evil doctors" and keeping her son pure, her stating proudly "Look what mommy built for you!" in reference to his bubble, and his being perfectly able to handle exposure to "decontaminated" objects like guinea-pigs, ice-cream, and even beer all point at The Reveal. While Jimmy's father is watching TV in the opening, we see a commercial for the Bright & Shiny cult that Jimmy runs into.
  • The Fundamentalist: Mrs. Livingston, full stop.
  • Funny Background Event: At the finale, when Jimmy's hugging Chloe, he gets the rings intended for her and Mark from the best man.
  • Girl Next Door: Jimmy's pursuit of one kickstarts the plot.
  • Henpecked Husband: Mr. Livingston only gets a handful of lines throughout the movie, despite appearing in a good quarter of it.
  • Hidden Depths: At the finale, we find out that before Mrs. Livingston settled down, she ran with a biker gang and actually dated Slim when she was younger. She goes back to this after Jimmy and Chloe get married — yes, including Slim and her husband, who seemed to enjoy the newfound freedom.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold:
  • High School Sweethearts: Who Chloe will marry if Jimmy doesn't get there in time to stop the wedding.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: The bus stop attendant calmly stresses the fact that he's lost 4 pounds in 2 months when Mrs. Livingston calls him fat.
  • Identical Twins / Theme Twin Naming: Pippy and Pappy, who had a thing for Poon-(backfire) and Poonanny, and had a falling out over it.
  • Implausible Deniability: Pushpop's initial reaction to hitting a cow was trying to claim it was an elk, caribou, or bison... in the middle of multiple cow pastures. It doesn't take long for him to fully break down.
  • Innocent Bigot: Jimmy, due to his upbringing. When Pushpop is trying to atone for running over the cow, Jimmy's reassurance is "Don't worry, Pushpop! Your religion's all lies!"
  • Jerkass Has a Point: At the wedding, Mark keeps acting offended and asking "Is it just me?" that has a problem with Jimmy interrupting the ceremony, with everyone else applauding when Jimmy and Chloe run out of the cathedral. Seeing as Mark was the groom, this is pretty understandable.
  • Jerk Jock: What Chloe's fiancée comes across as, due to having very little patience for her friendship with Jimmy.
  • Mama Bear: When trying to file a missing persons report, Jimmy's mother is told that it has to have been a few days since the person was last seen to file.
    Mrs. Livingston: Well, you'll certainly be in my prayers tonight. And I'll be praying you get nut cancer!
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Jimmy's experiencing the world for the first time, but one line in particular (after he steps in dog crap) highlights his viewpoint.
    Jimmy: Dog poop? This is awesome!
  • My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Livingston.
    • It is a major plot point, with The Reveal that he was actually dismissed from the hospital because his immune system kicked in when he was 4. She'd kept him in the bubble for at least fourteen years because she was afraid of what the world would do to her innocent baby boy.
    • Demonstrated in her bedtime stories:
      Mrs. Livingston: ...and the prince climbed up Rapunzel's hair to the top of the tower and said, "Come with me, and we'll live happily ever after." Then Rapunzel left her plastic bubble and died. The end.
      Mrs. Livingston: (after meeting Chloe) And then Pinocchio came out of his plastic bubble and touched the filthy little whore next door and died. The End!
  • Planet of Steves: The Bright & Shiny cult, where all the men are named "Todd" and all the women are "Lorraine".
  • Race for Your Love: He needs to go from the western US to Niagara Falls in just three days.
  • Raging Stiffie: Jimmy wakes up with one the day after seeing Chloe washing her car. Due to being raised by The Fundamentalist, he'd never had The Talk... so his reaction is to swing a nerf baseball bat at his tented pajamas.
  • The Reveal: At the finale, we find out that Jimmy's immune system had been fully functional since he was 4, and that his mother lied to keep him sheltered from the world.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Jimmy's reaction when Slim's bikers, the sideshow freaks, and the Bright & Shinies get into a brawl over him — he grabs the cab he'd intended to before they showed up.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The bus stop attendant (played by Zach Galifianakis) seems surprisingly calm upon seeing a Bubble Boy approach his station asking for a ticket.
  • Unwanted False Faith: Jimmy gets a ride with a very peppy cult en route, who kick him out into the desert when he actually calls them a cult. Unfortunately for them, their leader (played by Fabio) declares that "The Round One" shall lead them to paradise, meaning they have to try tracking him back down, including a confrontation with his mother.
    Lorraine: Back off, bitch! He's the Messiah!
  • The Voiceless: Mr. Livingston doesn't get the chance to say too much (speaking twice throughout the movie). But when he does, it really counts.
    Mr. Livingston: (talking to Jimmy when they've caught up to him near Niagara Falls) H-How was it out there? Was it fun? (beat) You can see the moon today. You know, it kind of makes you wonder. What would have happened if Neil Armstrong had gone all the way to the moon... and then never stepped on the surface?


Man in WhiteImageSource/Live-Action FilmsBubble Boy

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