The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976)

The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976)
  • 4502
  • PG
  • Genre: Biography
  • Release year: 1976 ()
  • Running time: 96 min
  • Original Title: The Boy in the Plastic Bubble
  • Voted: 4502

Based on a true story, Tod Lubitch is born with a deficient immune system (which is unlike being born with AIDS). As such, he must spend the rest of his life in a completely sterile environment. His room is completely hermetically sealed against bacteria and virus, his food is specially prepared, and his only human contact comes in the form of gloved hands. The movie follows his life into a teenager.

1John TravoltaTod Lubitch
2Glynnis O'ConnorGina Biggs
3Robert ReedJohnny Lubitch
4Diana HylandMickey Lubitch
  • Despite the rather contrived ending, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It's pretty good for a T.V film by 7

    I'm not sure why this movie is disliked among some, maybe because it's loosely based on a true story? A 5.6 rating certainly isn't bad, but it's way too low for a quality film like this one. Sure. It's corny at times, but that doesn't make it any less moving. I have to be honest. I was one of those people that thought I was gonna dislike it after the groan inducing opening, but it proved me wrong. It was one of John Travolta's first starring features and it shows why he went onto super stardom. I don't think I've seen someone with a handicapped be this cool to be honest. What I liked about it is it managed to balance all the sentimentality with sharp humor. When I first went into this one, I thought it was gonna be full of sap, but I was pleasantly surprised at all the sharp humor. It also helps that Tod (Travolta) is very likable and sympathetic. If the lead was unsympathetic, then it probably wouldn't have been as entertaining as it was. I also dug the cute little love story between Tod & Gina. It is somewhat forbidden due to Tod's condition, but I loved watching it unfold the way it did. I also dug how Tod's parents were written. They felt and acted like natural, caring parents should. You do have some clichés like the typical bully fodder, and the ending was rather artificial, but other than that, I really don't have much to complain about. John Travolta is excellent as Tod. His charm is undeniable, and he gives a really sympathetic show. He was perfect for the part. Glynnis O'Connor is a total cutie. She has her wooden moments, but overall I dug her for the most part. Her chemistry with Travolta is good. Robert Reed & Diana Hyland are very effective and natural as the parents of Tod.

    Note: Interestingly enough? Thanks to some IMDb Trivia. I found out Diana Hyland & John Travolta fell in love off screen before she sadly passed away.

    Final Thoughts: Everyone has a right to their opinion, but this is a good film. I really don't understand the average rating for this film. Travolta proves why he was meant for super stardom here. It's on You Tube, so I'd definitely go and watch it if I were you. Give it a chance!


  • Touching story marred by unclear ending by 7

    During one of my frequent raids of the $1 DVD bins, I found this 1976 made for TV movie. When reading the synopsis on the package I saw that it was "based on a true story" of a boy named Tod Lubitch (played by John Travolta) who was born without an immune system and had to live in a sterile environment. That brought to my mind a Houston boy named David Joseph Vetter III who was in the news a lot when I was growing up. David had the same problem, lived in the same environment and died at the age of 12.

    Upon my research I discovered that this movie is fictional. There was no Tod Lubitch. "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble" was inspired by the aforementioned David but isn't about him. $1 DVDs have a bad habit of providing false information and the "true story" claim is yet another example, as is the cover photo of Travolta, which appears to be only a few years old. He was actually in his early 20s when this movie originally aired.

    Now for the movie. After spending a few minutes each showing Tod's life as an infant and a four year old - when he begins spending some time at home, where a sterile room is set up for him - the remainder of the movie shows him around the age of 17.

    Despite the way he's forced live, Tod is a happy kid who has a close relationship with his parents. But he holds out hope that someday his body will build up enough immunities for him to leave his sterile environment.

    Gradually, Tod is able to live a more normal life. He is sometimes wheeled outside in a protective cart. He participates in high school through televisions and cameras set up in his room and the classroom. And later he begins attending school in person by wearing a protective suit much like one an astronaut wears. Tod actually blends in fairly well with the other students. He is a victim of some insensitivity but not a lot and he ends up graduating.

    As the movie progresses, Tod falls in love with classmate and next door neighbor Gina Biggs (Glynnis O'Connor). In one scene about midway through the movie, she pretends to express romantic interest in him but then he realizes she was just trying to win a bet with two of her male friends, which devastates Tod. But she later has a change of heart and falls for Tod, too.

    This leaves Tod with a monumental decision - continue to remain in his sterile environment, in which is only human contact is gloved hands, or risk his life to be with Gina.

    For the most part, I like this movie. It tells a bittersweet story in a very moving way. Travolta's performance is convincing and he shows great signs of things to come. I found myself feeling really sorry for Tod. The supporting cast is also strong and includes the late Robert Reed ("The Brady Bunch") as Tod's father, Johnny Lubitch. I think this is the only role I've ever seen Reed play other than Mike Brady. He displays good serious acting skill.

    But the movie is marred by its unclear ending. And I noticed one other significant flaw - in a scene in which Tod's protective suit runs out of oxygen, he rushes into the sterile section of his classroom, aided by classmates, and takes the suit off inside. It seems to me that the outside of the suit would be carrying germs, which would contaminate the sterile section and open Tod to germs that very well might kill him.

    The technical quality of the DVD that I have isn't great and looks like it might have been a direct transfer from a master tape that had been sitting on a shelf for years. But the quality is decent enough to watch comfortably.

    Overall, this is a very good movie that is well worth the dollar. 7/10.

  • Great Movie by 8

    I thought this movie was very good. You must consider that it was made in 1976 and also made for TV. Therefore it is not going to look like the movies we are used to seeing. I feel that it told the story very well. The movie IS based on a true story. It is not a made-up story of Hollywood, like a lot of people think. The only thing I did not like about the movie was the fact that they didn't take the story to the end. The movie leaves you hanging with questions. I feel that it did a good job conveying the emotions that Todd had. The camera positions in some shots really helped the viewer understand Todd's life and struggle. I would recommend this movie to all especially those who like movies based on true stories.

  • Back around the circle to great by 7

    I caught this movie on HBO late one night recently, after hearing about it for years as "that John Travolta movie about the boy in the bubble."

    It was bad. No, it was awful. As someone suggested earlier, it's a wonder that MST3K never got a hold of it. But a funny thing happened on the way - the movie went around the circle of quality until it got to bad. It then kept going, getting worse and worse, until it made its way full circle back to great. I'll admit - Citizen Kane this ain't, but it's great for a really, really, bad movie.

    Just for laughs, imagine Travolta in his Vinnie Barbarino voice saying "Heyyy... I'm in a bubble heah..."

    It's too bad he couldn't have stayed in that bubble, sparing us the agony of Battleship Earth and the Look Who's Talking series.

  • Another Perspective by 9

    I remember seeing this movie when it first aired and was happy to watch it again, this time with a new perspective. Now I am a mother and grandmother. However the greatest shift in perspective comes from being married to a man who has been in prison for 20 years. At odd moments I am given the opportunity to have a glimpse of what it might be like for him to come home one day. This was such a movie. Another was "The Terminal" with Tom Hanks. I couldn't contain my sobs when he was finally able to step through the doors to freedom. Freedom, perhaps the most taken for granted and wonderful blessing allowed to anyone.

    As in the story of Todd in "The Boy In The Plastic Bubble" something or someone not understood is easy to discount or hate. When there is an opportunity to understand and feel compassion it doesn't diminish us, it brings growth and maturity.

1Mark Snowcomposer
2Randal Kleiserdirector
3Cindy Dunneproducer
4Joel Thurmproducer
5Douglas Day Stewartwriter
6Joe Morgensternwriter