The Bubble premieres Friday, April 1 on Netflix.
Boasting an impressive cast of seriously hilarious folks, Judd Apatow's The Bubble unleashes the lunacy of preening actors attempting to star in the sixth installment of a dino-war franchise, toiling through an absurd production during the pandemic. The "bubble" is the hotel and movie set that everyone working on Cliff Beasts 6 is confined to, though the meta-comedy aspects at work here, in which Hollywood attempts to take the piss out of Hollywood, also constitutes an ideological bubble in its own right. Filled with sublime talent, and some solidly silly moments, The Bubble is still overlong and requires spending a bit too much time with an ensemble of selfish dopes.
As the cast of this in-movie knock on Jurassic Park -- which is not just due to the dinosaur premise but also Jurassic Park: Dominion's unprecedented 18-month production -- find themselves trapped in a seemingly endless loop of lockdowns, rewrites, and other sanity-testing hiccups, the story wears thin. The "stir crazy" elements seep into real-life viewing and make for a somewhat repetitive watch. Despite there being a dozen characters on different story arcs, they're all in some regard cut from the same egomaniac cloth and so the overall gag never changes.
Starring Karen Gillan, Fred Armisen, David Duchovny, Keegan-Michael Key, Leslie Mann, Pedro Pascal, and a slew of others, The Bubble feels like an overwrought counterpoint to Gal Gadot's poorly received pandemic-era rendition of "Imagine," with Apatow wanting to play around with the tone-deaf underbelly of the movie business. It's nothing we haven't seen before though, and on top of that, the fun wears off fast when big movies are made about how dumb it is that big movies get made. It's as if the messaging is "most actors, directors, and producers are awful -- but not us! That's why we can make fun of it." Yes, it's likely this collection of comedy folk is also poking fun at themselves too, but there's still a "them, not us" vibe.
Gillan plays Cliff Beasts saga star Carol Cobb, now returning to the franchise after skipping the fifth movie to make an alien attack movie called Jereuseum Rising. She falls back into the Cliff Beasts fold, rejoining Duchovny, Mann, and Key -- with Pascal playing a new-to-the-series veteran Sean Penn-type and Iris Apatow portraying a young famous TikTok'er with millions of followers cast because of her social media popularity. Apatow is flighty and formidable here as a quasi-outsider, who's risen to fame in a newfangled showbiz way the others don't understand. Are there a few TikTok dance segments? Sure. Does one in particular deliver a big laugh? Absolutely.
The cast's production and hotel support staff consist of Maria Bakalova (Oscar-nominated for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), Peter Serafinowicz (The Tick), Vir Das (Whiskey Cavalier), Harry Trevaldwyn, and Samson Kayo -- with fun cameos by John Cena, Maria Bamford, Daisy Ridley, Kate McKinnon, and more thrown in for good measure. Again, this is a super-talented team, and there's a comfort food element at work seeing them all be ridiculous together -- as flying dinos rampage and blood, vomit, and carnage run rampant on and off set -- but often The Bubble's messaging is muddled. These characters all convince themselves that they're humanitarians because Cliff Beasts 6 is what the world needs to feel good, while The Bubble, in its own right, thinks what the world needs is the movie business taking a hyper-specific swipe at itself.
The Bubble needed a time-shave to prevent it from being as maddening for us as it is for the characters.
The timing of The Bubble is woefully off, though an argument could be made that any and all pandemic-themed movies are will be outcasts no matter when they're released. In the throes of lockdown was poor form. Now, though? When the U.S., for better or worse, has almost collectively decided to move on? It feels like a zone people don't want to revisit, even for comedy's sake. So we can't even say this should have come out a year ago because it mostly likely would have been received just as coldly.
Larger story elements aside, it is enjoyable to see Pascal inhabit the soul of an eccentric narcissist, Duchovny and Mann bicker about as an on-and-off couple, and Gillan serve as the goofy centerpiece, amongst other delightful performances. That being said, The Bubble needed a time-shave to prevent it from being as maddening for us as it is for the characters.
A group of actors and actresses stuck inside a pandemic bubble at a hotel attempts to complete a film.