The Bubble

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

The Bubble
dir-prd Judd Apatow
scr Judd Apatow, Pam Brady
with Karen Gillan, Pedro Pascal, Leslie Mann, Fred Armisen, Keegan-Michael Key, David Duchovny, Iris Apatow, Peter Serafinowicz, Guz Khan, Samson Kayo, Maria Bakalova, Vir Das, Kate McKinnon, Rob Delaney, James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, John Cena, John Lithgow
release US/UK 1.Apr.22
22/US Netflix 2h04

gillan key bakalova

Is it streaming?

pascal, mann and duchovny
Packed with satirical touches, this comedy lampoons show biz culture from fake luvvie compliments to ridiculous on-set shenanigans. Filmmaker Judd Apatow also pokes fun at the nature of studio tentpole blockbusters, while of course dragging things out too long as usual. Played with a straight-face, the spoofery sometimes turns dry or drifts over the top into corny slapstick. But there are witty jokes scattered all the way through.
Over three months during the pandemic, a sixth Cliff Beasts action adventure is being filmed at a stately home in the English countryside. The cast quarantines and creates a bubble, quickly forgiving Carol (Gillen) for skipping Cliff Beasts 5. New director Darren (Armisen) gets everyone into action-training. Actor-writer Dustin (Duchovny) feels like guardian of the franchise, supported by gung-ho costar Lauren (Mann). New actress and super-influencer Krystal (Apatow) leads everyone in elaborate TikTok dances, making Sean (Key) worry that he's getting old. Dieter (Pascal) flirts shamelessly with everyone. And Howie (Khan) worries that he's replaceable.
Scenes from the film within the film are presented with fully rendered effects before cutting to the chaos on the green-screen stage, where each person has his or her own personal crisis to deal with. Carol is pressured to return because her last film nearly cancelled her. Lauren and Dustin are negotiating their messy romantic past, including a shared child. Production has to shut down when someone tests positive for covid. And there are several major falling-outs that feel extremely scripted, which makes the plot feel extended beyond the breaking point.

This ensemble of experts is terrific at punching the comical beats and creating specific characters without getting too deep. Each of the leads is excellent, and each gets his or her own big moments amid the general kerfuffle. Alongside them, Serafinowicz shines more subtly as the fast-talking producer, while it's the smaller side roles and cameo players that stand out, most notably McKinnon as a cold-hearted studio boss and Kayo as an amusingly over-reactive trainer-masseur.

It's easy to identify with pandemic gags, including vaccine inequality, the indignities of testing and the boredom of lockdown. But it's more difficult to sympathise with these petulant rich people, even if they're stressed out by the thought that the film industry might not survive. Apatow's scattershot approach is a bit too cynical to be hilarious, especially as it builds to the enormously idiotic climax of their flying dinosaur blockbuster and even more action mayhem after that.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 1.Apr.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall