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The Boy in the Plastic Bubble
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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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?
Travolta certainly attacks his part with gusto; even if this movie reeks of after-school special, his wide grin has movie star written all over it. THE BOY IN THE PLASTIC BUBBLE was a huge hit when it aired on network television in 1976, solidifying young 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.