'The Bubble' review: Horrendous Covid comedy marks career low for Judd Apatow
Courtesy of Netflix
I’m not sure about you, but I’ve come to despise pandemic related content. Not movies made during the pandemic with a cast of three (i.e “Windfall”) but movies that try to use the pandemic as a plot device. The latest offender came as a shock considering he’s one of the greatest living comedic directors of a generation. That would be Judd Apatow, the man behind classics “Anchorman,” "Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” who somehow managed to co-write and direct the bumbling, cringy, and holistically unfunny “The Bubble,” a “satire” (if that’s the word we’re using) about shooting a blockbuster during the pandemic. Obviously, this is in essence about the much publicized “Jurassic World: Dominion” shoot that took place last summer which got a reputation for a ballooning budget because of enhanced on-set Covid protocols.
That was then and this is now. While we’re not completely out of the woods yet with Covid-19 (we can certainly picture the light at the end of the tunnel) and “The Bubble” already feels dated and, in ten years, probably won’t be looked upon favorably. It’ll live in a time capsule of pandemic content alongside “Songbird” and “Trapped at Home” as some of the worst artistic things to come out of this horrific health crisis. Isn’t it bad enough that we lived through it? Now I’ve got to watch a montage of A-list actors getting test swabs shoved up their nose and losing their minds during a 14-day mandatory quarantine? It might have skated by had Apatow found the sweet spot he normally does in his brand of down-to-earth comedies, but alas his worst qualities, including a run time that extends beyond the two-hour mark, are fully displayed here.
What’s shocking the most about “The Bubble” is Apatow has seemingly flexed his chops enough to get an ensemble that includes mega movie-stars and then finds new and inventive methods of wasting their talents. That’s nothing to say of the brief cameos from instantly recognizable actors who, I guess, had nothing better going on during lockdown and seemingly showed up on set one day as a favor. If “The Bubble” taught me anything it’s that if Apatow makes a call, he can basically conjure anyone he wants. Yet, a director who gave us something so bliss and serene as “Funny People” and knew how to interweave cameos into his films seems to have completely forgotten the general rule about them. They should probably serve a purpose and not be thrown in for the sake of a name drop.
As it goes, “The Bubble” is about a much-beleaguered franchise named “Cliff Beasts” now on its sixth installment and has done everything short of jumping the shark. The film follows the cast and crew, made up of (take a deep breath): Karen Gillan’s Carol Cobb, who use to be the face of the franchise prior to skipping the fifth outing; Pedro Pascal’s horndog Dieter Bravo; Iris Apatow’s Tik-Tok sensation Krystal Kris; Leslie Mann’s hyper-obsessive Lauren Van Chance; David Duchovny’s egotistical Dustin Mulray; and Keegan-Micheal Key’s chill Sean Knox. There’s also supporting turns from Fred Armisen, Kate McKinnon, Guz Khan and more who, if I continued to list, would lead us into the next pandemic.
They’re trying to make the next entry in the “Cliff Beasts” saga under strict mandates set forth by the studio despite literally nobody wanting to see it. What could have easily evolved into a spunky faux documentary about the making of “Cliff Beasts 6” instead becomes a tireless web of innuendos, dick and urine jokes and miniature vignettes surrounding individual characters that never comes together to tell a cohesive story. Oh, and there’s several quips about “If movie theaters survive this” which is ironic when “The Bubble” is being released by Netflix, a streaming service.
Co-written by Pam Brady, who, like Apatow, has helped usher in an era of high-brow satirical comedies with “South Park,” “Hamlet 2” and “Team America: World Police,” “The Bubble” doesn’t have a single funny bone in its body. Luckily, the film will come and go without much fanfare before getting lost in the Netflix shuffle and hopefully won’t be unearthed or reevaluated in the not-so-distant future. For Apatow, it’s a rare blemish that’ll hopefully provide inspiration for his next great comedy which I’m sure is circling around in his head waiting to burst.
THE BUBBLE debuts on Netflix Friday, April 1st.