Film Review – The Bubble
The Bubble (2022) is painfully unfunny. It’s meant to be a comedy about the making of a movie in the Covid era but plays as a series of cringe-inducing scenes all aiming for the lowest common denominator. It’s no secret that the last few years have taken a toll on all industries, not just cinema. We’ve all had to adjust in some fashion. Seeing a movie production struggle to complete a shoot while everyone complains about safety protocols doesn’t make for an enjoyable watch. What’s so funny about actors losing their minds while staying at a fancy English estate? Is this supposed to be a satire, poking fun at celebrities who whine about superfluous hindrances to their privileged lives?
Judd Apatow was once on top of the comedic hierarchy. He was one of the few remaining filmmakers whose comedies were theatrical hits. But The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) and Knocked Up (2007) were released a long time ago. His latest effort is only a shell of his previous success. With cowriter Pam Brady, Apatow conjures a story about the making of a B-level sci-fi action film, “Cliff Beasts 6.” Given that this takes place during the pandemic, Apatow shifts his focus to the measures meant to keep the production Covid-free. All new arrivals must quarantine in their rooms for two weeks first, all production staff must wear masks or face shields, and everyone off camera must maintain distance from one another – does any of this sound familiar?
Of course, with a production filled with ego-centric and off beat performers, the rules are quickly broken. Each cast member comes in with their own agendas. Carol (Karen Gillan) thinks the protocols treats them like cattle. Dustin (David Duchovny) and Lauren (Leslie Mann) are a bickering couple on the verge of reconciling or killing each other. Dieter (Pedro Pascal) is hopped up on cocaine, and his sole motivation is hooking up with one of the estate’s servants (Maria Bakalova). Sean (Keegan-Michael Key) talks like a self-help guru but doesn’t appear to even believe himself, and Krystal (Iris Apatow) is a social media influencer more concerned with her Tik Tok videos than the work at hand.
The narrative becomes a test of whether this ragtag group of misfits can finish their movie. Whether it be the cast slowly creating a mutiny against the studio, a director (Fred Armisen) trying to make everyone happy and failing, or the threat of Covid seeping its way in, there are a lot of obstacles preventing this from being a smooth undertaking. When a possible exposure delays the shoot for an indeterminate time, the hotel become a madhouse, as boredom and stress push the cast and crew into various hijinks. This includes – but not limited to – random acts of sex, drug-infused dance montages, and various uses of projectile vomit. Sadly, none of this stuff is funny or even mildly amusing. Tropic Thunder (2008) took the same basic concept (minus Covid) and brought it to interesting and creative places. The Bubble sadly does not.
Critics of Apatow’s filmmaking will have a field day. Some of his worst tendences are put on display. He has a knack for letting his actors improvise way longer than needed. Jokes that may cause a slight chuckle wear out quickly as Apatow refuses to cut away in a timely fashion. He opts to leave in material rather than condensing it. One of Krystal’s Tik Tok videos features the cast dancing together for an ungodly long time. Story threads go in all sorts of directions without any reason or consequence. Carol’s undercover fling with an athlete (whose team is oddly at the same hotel) goes nowhere. And the numerous cameos – from celebrities whom I will not mention – feels like a bunch of people who were called in to do a favor. It all leads to a narrative that meanders with no sense of forward momentum. The two-hour runtime feels like three, as every scene drags along with little to connect them. It wouldn’t matter if you started watching in the beginning, middle, or even the end – it all exists in a jumble of half realized ideas and lazy comedy.
Strangely, I was more drawn into the movie-within-the-movie. From what little we get, Cliff Beasts 6 looks like a lot of schlocky fun. We see characters roaming around dark forests, scaling rock faces above perilous drops, and even fighting dinosaurs with flame throwers. I repeat: fighting dinosaurs with flame throwers! The CGI effects, shockingly, were believable for something that doesn’t actually exist. Perhaps the biggest misstep is making the fake movie more interesting than the real one. Every time an action scene is interrupted revealing the actors performing in front of a green screen, I felt a tinge of disappointment.
The Bubble is a letdown in just about every category. My only hope is that everyone involved was paid handsomely for their services, because the final product betrays their talent. Let’s move on and never speak of this again, shall we?