Directed By Rolf de Heer
Starring Nicolas Hope
Blue Underground has been rapidly bringing its brand of film over to the next generation of media with a slew of blu-ray releases. Some people say that these older films are a waste of time on blu-ray because they don’t benefit from the blu-ray format as much as newer ones. More often than not there’s always at least a minimal amount of improvement in audio and video when any film of any age is presented in HD and having these films on blu-ray future proofs them, guaranteeing that they will be watchable for years to come. I couldn’t wait to experience the world through Bubby’s eyes again, this time in HD.
Bubby is a 35 year old man who has never left his home. He lives there with his mother, a cat, and some cockroaches. Bubby has had no education and no exposure to the outside world. His slovenly mother has convinced him that if he leaves the nasty two room apartment in which they live that the poison in the air will kill him. When she leaves she wears a gas mask. She uses Bubby for company and for sex telling him “That’s a good Bubby”.
One day Bubby’s father returns home having never known that he had a son. His father “Pop” takes over the near claustrophobic world of Bubby and his mother causing Bubby to continue an experiment with cling wrap that he had originally started with the cat. Bubby eventually builds up the guts to leave the apartment and discovers that he can breathe. Mentally Bubby is still an infant only able to communicate barely beyond mimickery. In fact much of his communication consists of repeating things others have said at what he feels are appropriate times. So, we see and hear the world through the eyes and ears of a 35 year old infant.
From that point on the story consists of Bubby bouncing from place to place encountering an eclectic group of people who take him in for a time. There’s no defined narrative, instead the film is more like a character study. The cinematography and production feel mostly like a documentary making the lack of a defined narrative ring true and making the black comedy funnier and the tragedies that befall Bubby more tragic. I won’t spoil Bubby’s adventures for you but suffice it to say that Bubby finds himself in many more disturbing situations before seeing any good in the world.
Bad Boy Bubby is a fable. In a way it’s a mirror image to Forest Gump. Where Forest Gump sees a positive glorified version of the world in which we live Bubby sees a darker much more sinister version. Bubby has a much harder time than Forest but like Forest he still finds happiness, but in some strange places. Only in this film could a thirty five year old infant find himself to be a Jim Morrison like leader of a successful rock band!
The filmmakers seem to be using this film to vent about the world and what they see to be wrong with it. At first the social commentary is handled quite cleverly but in the third act there are several sequences that become over bearing and they actually hurt the story a bit. There’s one sequence that tore me rudely from the story where a member of Bubby’s band gives him a lesson on religion and how bad those behind different religions treat each other. The sequence is obtrusive and could have been handled much more subtly than it was. This sequence feels very reactionary. Maybe he wrote it after he read something regarding religion that pissed him off. Other sequences early in the film are handled much better. When Bubby finds a young girl willing to have sex with him and she sings him a religious song while they do it pretty much says a lot about the filmmakers thoughts on the subject. It’s a pretty powerful statement, and funny and exploitative at the same time.
Bad Boy Bubby feels like it could have been made in the late 60’s early 70’s exploitation era. The style of filmmaking is definitely there, the social commentary is there, and several disturbing sequences are peppered throughout the film. It doesn’t feel like the filmmakers held back in any way. Their passion for filmmaking is apparent and so is there angst toward the world in which they live. So as with many Underground.
I found Bubby’s ultimate outcome to be touching. With the ending I think the filmmaker is trying to say that as bad as our world may be, happiness is still out there for anyone who wants it. I will admit though that the ending is a bit too heavy handed like some other socio-political comments in the last act. But, in spite of the flaws I found Bad Boy Bubby to be a disturbing and engaging film.
The 1080p widescreen presentation is a step up from the standard def DVD presentation, but only one step. The image overall is a bit soft and there’s a heavy amount of film grain. With that siad the image is cleaner and more clear than that previous release. Unfortunately black levles are still a bit murky, especially in darker scenes. The few scenes that do feature vibrant colors come off quite bright and clean here. The image overall is a step ahead of the previous DVD release, but as I said just one step.
There are a couple of audio options available for the audiophile. There’s a DTS-HD Master option and a Dolby TrueHD option. Both of these options sound very similar. Which one you use will really come down to your audio set up. Considering the audio options the film sounds fairly flat and features very little dynamic range. With that said there’s one interesting audio detial worth mentioning. The director paced a couple of wireless mics above Bubby’s ears allowing us to experience much of the film directly from Bubby’s perspective. It often actually works showing just how claustrophobic Bubby feels. Dialogue, score, and sound fx are all clean and easy to ear if a little too center channel loaded.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The art here is taken from the original DVD release and like I said about that release I just didn’t find it do be as inspiring as other Blue Underground releases. Also a disappointment is that there are no new extras here. Everything on the disc is brought over from the previous DVD release.
There are two interviews on the single disc release, one with director/writer Rolf de Heer and another with Bubby himself Nicolas Hope. Both interviews were very informative but I found de Heer’s the most interesting as he shares how the screenplay was written and many behind the scenes details of the making of the film.
There’s also the short film Confessor Caresser starring Nicolas Hope. This is the film where de Heer first encountered Nicolas Hope and after seeing it decided that he would be Bubby.
Other than that there’s a trailer and a still gallery. The interviews off up a lot of good information but a feature length commentary would be a really welcome addition.
Bad Boy Bubby is quirky, funny, disturbing, and a real treat for fans of arresting filmmaking.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 8.5/10
The Video 7.5/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an average) 8/10