Synopsis – A group of actors and actresses stuck inside a pandemic bubble at a hotel attempts to complete a film.
My Take – Looking at his feature filmography which contains the likes The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007), Pineapple Express (2008), Funny People (2009), Trainwreck (2015), The King of Staten Island (2020), comes an assurance that writer, producer and director Judd Apatow knows comedy very well.
His latest, which he co-wrote with Pam Brady (Team America: World Police, South Park), however, is a little different, something more on the sillier side. A silly yet mildly amusing comedy about a feature production taking place during the pandemic.
Basically, the two were inspired by the production of the upcoming blockbuster, Jurassic World Dominion, which filmed last year in the UK under strict COVID-19 protocols, with its actors living together in a hotel during the shoot. Working as comedic spin to the scenario, the film offers a broad satire on film making in the pandemic era, with a mixed bag of funny gags, commentaries and some interesting looks at the inside of a Hollywood production, all within the confines of a comedy.
Though, backed by a sprawling ensemble cast that are efficient in their roles, some funnier than others, the results aren’t as effective, as the film is a bit all over the place, the pacing is irregular constantly and considering the premise, it is a little too long for its own good.
While the film does contain some really stand out hilarious moments, but considering the noted creative forces behind the camera, it sure doesn’t come together as well as it should have.
The story mainly follows Carol Cobb (Karen Gillan), a B-plus-list star whose last film, Jerusalem Rising, bombed thanks to vicious reviews criticizing the extremely Caucasian Cobb’s portrayal of a half-Israeli, half-Palestinian woman, finds herself covering under the pressure of her agent (Rob Delaney) and returning to the dinosaur action franchise, Cliff Beasts, for the sixth installment, after skipping on the fifth film.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the production is set up in a bubble in England, Carol heads to live in a posh countryside resort, owned by Ronjon (Vir Das) who runs it with Anika (Maria Bakalova), to prevent any infections.
Reuniting with co-stars Lauren Van Chance (Leslie Mann), Dustin Mulray (David Duchovny), Sean Knox (Keegan-Michael Key), and Howie Frangopolous (Guz Khan), and joined by new cast members Dieter Bravo (Pedro Pascal), an Oscar winner slumming it, and Krystal Kris (Iris Apatow), a TikTok star who isn’t sure why she’s there, trouble begins when the initially planned three month shoot continues to get extended again and again, while producer Gavin (Peter Serafinowicz) impotently tries to control new director Darren Eigan (Fred Armisen), rein in negative publicity, on set tensions, and vices of the cast.
The film opens strongly, instantly sets the tone, characters are laid out and the jokes begin, delivering laughs in good quantities. Here, director Apatow and Pam Brady go really hard on how celebrity culture has changed in the last few years. Film stars are dead, streaming is king, theaters are closing, and fame is not something unique to film or TV stars; anyone with a microphone and a camera can become famous.
So, with all these factors becoming more common and less unique, many people have realized that celebrities are just not that special.
Periodically, there are some nice gags about the heartless world of show business and there are also some nicely surreal scenes showing how very easy it is to fake an exterior location digitally: the cast free-climb a high mountain, but tired and bored, they start petulantly floating away on their invisible wires.
But somewhere along the line, it starts to lag. Not all the jokes land, and some of them are cringe material of the highest order. It attempts to be part comedy, part drama, and to deliver a conscious message about celebrities, but this scattered focus doesn’t work well as the film goes on. The stir crazy elements seep into real-life viewing and make for a somewhat repetitive watch, as director Apatow throws everything at the screen to justify his run time.
That aside, the big, impressive cast is witty, wicked, and well-versed in comedy and manage to provide a good time, irrespective of the expense. Karen Gillan serve well as the goofy centerpiece, Pedro Pascal is highly enjoyable as the eccentric narcissist, and Keegan-Michael Key is delightfully hilarious. David Duchovny and Leslie Mann are engaging as they bicker about as an on-and-off couple.
However, Iris Apatow comes out as the show stealer playing the apt role of a shallow TikToker. In supporting roles, Fred Armisen, Peter Serafinowicz, Maria Bakalova, Vir Das, Harry Trevaldwyn, and Samson Kayo are equally good, while Kate McKinnon is amusing as the chillingly unsympathetic studio head.
The film also contains some really fun cameos from the likes of John Cena, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rob Delaney, Daisy Ridley, Maria Bamford, John Lithgow, Beck, and James McAvoy. On the whole, ‘The Bubble’ is a witty throwaway comedy that doesn’t completed land its clever concept despite an incredible cast.
Directed – Judd Apatow
Rated – R
Run Time – 126 minutes