The Bubble is the latest film from Judd Apatow. Taking place during the first year of the COVID pandemic, it follows a small group of actors as they attempt to make the sixth installment of the Cliff Beasts franchise. The spoiled, pampered, and pretentious actors find themselves isolated, not allowed to go anywhere other than the set or the hotel. The film becomes a disaster as the actors are driven mad by all the rules and the inconvenience that comes along with trying to make a film in the middle of the global pandemic. When the studio hires a security team to keep anyone from escaping, things get only dumber.
Even by the standards of what we’ve come to expect from Judd Apatow, The Bubble is a notably messy and self-indulgent film. It’s a bit of a shame really because there’s much about the Pandemic that not only deserves to be satirized but also needs to be satirized. For much of society, satire will be an important step on the road back to sanity. Unfortunately, the humor in The Bubble often falls flat because Apatow doesn’t seem to really be sure what his main target is. Is he targeting COVID hysteria? Is he targeting the pampered rich people who treated the pandemic like a two-year vacation while people who actually lived paycheck-to-paycheck were risking their health just so they could pay their bills? Is he targeting bad action movies or pretentious indie directors or actors who think that the world revolves around them? When Maude Apatow shows up as a TikTok star who has been given a role because she has 2,000,000 followers, is Apatow aiming at the shallowness of social media or is he poking fun at the older generation that can’t understand the kids and their wild and wacky ways? Apatow seems to be going after everything and everyone but, at the same time, he also expects us to care about these characters when they start demanding to be allowed to leave the set.
The film’s action doesn’t really follow any sort of real storyline. Instead, it feels like a collection of skits, all piled on top of each other and all dragging on for a bit too long. Though The Bubble is shorter than the average Apatow film, it’s still over two hours long. After the first hour, the film suddenly becomes obsessed with random dance scenes. Usually, I love random dance scenes but, in this case, there’s really no humor or point to them beyond saying, “Wow, these people suck at dancing.” It’s funny the first time but, by the fourth time, it starts to feel a bit lazy. The film is like the improv student who, instead of building on the situation and working with his scene partners, just shouts out whatever pops into his head and begs the audience for a laugh. The film does end on what would be a clever touch if not for the fact that it’s all pretty much lifted from the final scenes of Tropic Thunder.
Lest anyone think that I’m totally trashing the film, I did chuckle a few times. There’s a recurring bit with Kate McKinnon’s studio exec constantly being at either the beach or on safari. That made me laugh. And Keegan-Michael Key, as an actor who has written a spiritual guide, delivers the majority of his lines with just the right amount of self-importance. For the most part, though, The Bubble falls flat. This is not the Netflix film to watch this weekend.