The Boy in the Plastic Bubble

  • Review Date: April 25, 2005
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1976
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Worthwhile tale of adolescence and difference.
  • Review Date: April 25, 2005
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1976
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
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15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable
Violence
Not applicable
Sex

Todd uses binoculars to spy on the girl next door as she gets ready for bed. We see plenty of Gina in skimpy bathing suits, but no nudity. One boy who's in a bubble says he wants to get a hooker when he gets out; the two obliquely discuss masturbation. Teens kiss on the couch and the two leads make out in the back of a van (of course, Todd's in his space suit.)

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Teenagers experiment with smoking and then pot smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this story deals with the themes of loneliness and teenagers maturing into adults. Some teens have fun at Todd's expense, but the movie clearly indicates that this is hurtful behavior. Older grade school kids may enjoy the charming story, but parents should be aware of some mature content, especially sexual situations. Preteens will probably get the most involved in the story. Teens' interest in this video is debatable. They'll relate to the growing pains but may laugh at the over-the-top acting style.

Parents say

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Kids say

What's the story?

In this made-for-TV movie, Joe (Robert Reed) and Mary have lost several children, but give it one more try. This time their newborn's immune system isn't lethal, but the child is forced to spend his life inside a plastic bubble; any contact with the germ-laden world will bring certain death. As a teen, Todd (John Travolta) suffers typical teenage angst, coupled with his growing frustration at being confined to his plastic home. He goes to high school via closed circuit TV before devising a space suit contraption that allows him to physically attend class. He also falls for Gina, the girl next door. Initially, Gina treats Todd cruelly and uses him to cheat on school tests, but eventually, she returns his affection. Todd's growing frustration leads him to risk his life by venturing out into the world, unprotected.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

THE BOY IN THE PLASTIC BUBBLE was a huge hit when it aired on network television in 1976, solidifying young John Travolta's reputation as a mega star. The movie's fame endured, even inspiring a Seinfeld episode where the gang goes on a wacky journey to visit a bubble boy. Whatever its original goofy charm, the movie hasn't aged terribly well. One 13-year-old viewer ridiculed Travolta's performance and found the story and acting "too melodramatic."

By the movie's second half, this teen was closely following the story. She really liked the scene where Todd goes to school in his "space suit" because it was "just so embarrassing." That's the thing: Whatever its over-the-top elements, the story has an odd way of sneaking up and hooking you. And Travolta certainly attacks the part with gusto. Even if the movie reeks of after school special, his wide grin has movie star written all over it.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Todd adapted. Why did he finally make the decision to leave the safety of his bubble to go out into the world? What would you have done in a similar situation? How is Todd's plight similar to all teens?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 1, 1976
DVD release date:March 31, 1999
Cast:Glynnis O'Connor, John Travolta, Robert Reed
Director:Randal Kleiser
Studio:ABC
Genre:Drama
Run time:100 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written bybubbleboy June 6, 2009
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

It's Got John Travolta, But It's SO Corny

Yes, Mr. Travolta gives a good early performance here, but the film is too made-for-TV-movie-ish (yes, I understand that it was.) Though it teaches acceptance and there are some dramatically tense scenes, the dialogue too often falls flat and the film devolves into a maudlin fare. And I don't mind unusual (in fact I kind of love it in a film) but this is just a little too odd to be any good. Not awful, but certainly not terrific.
Teen, 15 years old Written byyourboi01 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

ok

i saw it in my health class and it was ok.

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