(2001)2.5Josh RalskeDisney's Bubble Boy is a gross-out, irreverent comedy with a core of sweetness, in the style of the Farrelly brothers. Its arrival during a summer full of underwhelming would-be Hollywood blockbusters did nothing to ease its reception. Parents of children with immunodeficiency disorder organized in an understandable, if misguided, effort to protest the film's depiction of the illness as a basis for comedy. Critics lashed out at the film in nearly unanimous disdain for its scabrous mockery of religious devotion and its brazen parade of ethnic stereotypes. Many called it offensive, and worse -- unfunny. Much was made of the casting of physically unusual actors like Verne Troyer (Mini-Me from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me) and Beetlejuice (from Howard Stern's radio program). But the real target of the film's admittedly uneven lowbrow humor is the kind of narrow-minded intolerance displayed by Mrs Livingston (Swoosie Kurtz), and the filmmakers' attempt to humanize her by making it obvious that ignorance and fear drive her. Most critics somehow missed the film's essential sweetness, appreciable in the wide-eyed, innocent joy of Jake Gyllenhaal's impressive lead performance. Gyllenhaal, in this film and in October Sky, displays the same kind of likable openness as Tobey Maguire, only with more vitality. The film is only sporadically funny, and it's frequently in poor taste, but it's got energy to spare, and Gyllenhaal's performance gives it a soul.