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Film / Bubble Boy

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Bubble Boy is a 2001 American Black Comedy film directed by Blair Hayes and starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the eponymous Bubble Boy, Jimmy Livingston.

Raised in a hyper-conservative home by a clingy mother (Swoosie Kurtz) and a nigh-voiceless father (John Carroll Lynch), Jimmy grows up 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 (Marley Shelton), who strikes up a close friendship with him. Then, sometime after she graduates from High School, she tells Jimmy 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.

Bubble Boy provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Verne Troyer plays Dr. Phreak, feared owner of a sideshow.
  • Alliterative Title
  • Artistic License – History: Used In-Universe, with Mrs. Livingston's... interesting lessons in US History.
    10-year-old Jimmy: And then, the Indians decided to move to the reservations, where they could open casinos and sell tax-free cigarettes, and stay out of the white man's way.
    Mrs. Livingston: Another A+!
  • Asian Speekee 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!
  • 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.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Pushpop and the cow.
  • 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.
  • Butt-Monkey: Mr. Livingston.
  • The Cameo: Fancy meeting you here, Fabio! And he's the leader of the Bright & Shiny cult, of all things.
  • 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 Open: This happens to Pappy while he was driving. He gets better, though.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Mark. He's an immature and vulgar young man. Chloe dumps him without a word at the altar.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • While Jimmy's father is watching TV in the opening, we see a commercial for the Bright and Shiny cult that Jimmy runs into later.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • "The Graduate" Homage Shot: The setting for Mark and Chloe's wedding is the same church that was featured in The Graduate. And while Jimmy interrupts the wedding it's his mother who actually bangs on the glass.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Chloe.
  • Hate Sink: Mark, Chloe's boyfriend. He's abrasive, crude, and openly mocks Jimmy for his condition. He's also one of the few supporting characters who is not shown with a happy ending in the final scene.
  • 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!"
  • Innocent Swearing: Jimmy flat out says Chloe is the "Whore next door" when they first meet, parroting his mother. When she says she's more of a bitch than a whore, Jimmy calls her that instead. Chloe seems to find it endearing.
  • 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.
  • Keet: Jimmy.
  • Kiddie Kid: Of course, anyone would come off like that with Jimmy's upbringing.
  • Let's Wait Awhile: Some dialogue at the beginning of the film implies that the reason why Mark proposed to Chloe is because she wants to wait until she's married.
  • Lint Value: as Jimmy tries to get a bus ticket with a small amount of change, the man at the ticket booth tells him to take a step back to show that it's all he could afford with it.
  • 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!
  • Mama's Boy: Jimmy, until he leaves home.
  • Mood Whiplash: The climax is equal parts heartwarming and tearjerking... before swerving straight into funny as Mrs. Livingston just tells Jimmy to wake up because he's not dead. "I'm not?"
  • 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!
    • Also what triggers the climax of the movie - Jimmy's father simply unlocking the doors so his son could continue his journey to Niagara Falls.
  • My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Livingston.
    • It acts as 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!
  • The Napoleon: Dr. Phreak. He's easily the shortest character in the film and is a Bad Boss to the freaks.
  • No Sympathy: At Mark and Chloe's wedding none of the guests seem to care when Mark gets rejected. He even points this out.
  • 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 Palmdale, California 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.
  • The Runaway: 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.
  • 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.
  • Shared Family Quirks: Lisa, Marks sister, displays the same debauched mindset as her brother when she's helping Chloe with her dress fitting.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Towards the end Jimmy interrupts Chloe and Mark's wedding just before Chloe was about to say "I do".
  • Think Unsexy Thoughts: Jimmy is taught to deal with his afore-mentioned Raging Stiffie by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance over and over until it goes away. Becomes a Brick Joke when Chloe gets a little too close to him while teaching him to play guitar and he randomly starts saying it.
  • 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?
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The unnamed Conjoined twins had seemed to disappear from the face of the movie right before the Freaks stole Mr. and Mrs. Livingstone's Car.