Bubby (Nicholas Hope) has spent the whole of his life in one single room apartment, after being told for all that time that the air outside is poisoned with deadly gas. Who has taught him this? His mother, the only other person he has seen for around thirty-five years, and who tends to him, or to put it another way, has placed him under her tyrannical spell. She prepares meals for him, making pablum for him to eat, allows him to play with his only pet, a cat, and otherwise has left him in a state of mental innocence so much so that Bubby merely repeats the talk that he hears from her by way of conversation. The only time she is nice to him is when she wants sex, but one day there is a knock at the door...
Bad Boy Bubby was, it's safe to say, one of the more eccentric films to emerge from Australia in the nineties as it failed to fit into any genre other than comedy, perhaps. And as a comedy, it was of a particularly dark nature, taking a man-child and setting him adrift in a world that he has little comprehension of; before that happens, we are left to endure the first third of the film in that grubby little room that represents the entirety of Bubby's universe. Here he torments his pet cat, following his mother's lead in the manner in which she treats him, until the point where he imprisons the beast in clingwrap and it breathes no more.
There are a few recurring motifs here, one being the process of breathing and how Bubby learns to go through with it and realise that it's not only essential that he does it but that he allows other people (and cats) to do it as well. By the time he has done this he is ready for life in the outside world, which it will not surprise you to learn is not infested with poison gas as it is Bubby's wicked mother (Claire Benito) who has deceived him to prevent him ever going out. But there's that knock at the door, which belongs to Bubby's conman father (Ralph Cotterill), returning after years away to mess things up for his son's oblivious existence and win back the affections of his wife.
Initially Bubby is delighted to see his "Pop" and as he does with his mother he imitates his speech and actions, but Pop is not interested in being a good father and more keen on getting some of what Bubby has been enjoying these past couple of decades. Incidentally, the mother is a larger lady which gives Bubby a fetish for the generously-bosomed woman which becomes one of his driving forces once he gets outside. Yes, he does escape, after his drunken parents return home one night and in their stupor end up suffocated by their offspring with that clingwrap, not that he intentionally wants to kill them, you get the impression he was simply experimenting.
In the wider world, Bubby is all at sea, repeating random bits of dialogue he hears, finding that most people are hostile - but not all. There are a few who take him under their wing, sometimes for a few minutes, other times for days, and we see these ordinary folks through the eyes of the naive protagonist to notice how odd they all seem. It's the old "stranger in a strange land" plot again, and in truth de Heer spins it out for far too long as we pretty much get the idea of what his targets are after about an hour. Those targets being religion as Bubby meets Norman Kaye who tells him that God does not exist and if he does he's not worth our attention, sex as Bubby rejects the conventionally attractive to opt for the oversized but sweet nurse Angel (Carmel Johnson), and the law when the police he meets are no help whatsoever, to say the least. Really it's the whole craziness of society that Bubby brings out, like repeating sentences back to highlight their absurdity and nonsensical qualities, in a film that's interesting but overstated. Music by Graham Tardif.