‘The Bubble’ Movie Review: Judd Apatow’s COVID-19 Netflix Comedy Is a Disaster

The Bubble is Judd Apatow’s return to the writing and directing game after 2020’s The King of Staten Island. He returns with another talented cast, but the material falls completely flat in the comedy department. The Bubble tries to find the humor in the earlier days of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Ultimately it’s about as funny as the virus itself.

‘The Bubble’ takes place on a COVID-19 pandemic-era movie set

'The Bubble' cast Iris Apatow as Krystal Kris, Pedro Pascal as Dieter Bravo, and Leslie Mann as Lauren Van Chance screaming on a forest movie set with a green screen behind them
L-R: Iris Apatow as Krystal Kris, Pedro Pascal as Dieter Bravo, and Leslie Mann as Lauren Van Chance | Laura Radford/Netflix

In The Bubble, Carol Cobb (Karen Gillan) is an actor who is famous for a ridiculous action movie franchise called Cliff Beasts. However, she decided not to return for Cliff Beasts 5 to pursue other opportunities. When the pandemic stops all Hollywood movie productions, she decides to join the only studio film still operating during the shutdown: Cliff Beasts 6.

The cast and crew must quarantine for two weeks before they can move forward with production. They reside in a beautiful hotel where they are pampered with anything they could possibly want. However, nothing appears to go right as Cliff Beasts 6 goes totally off the rails. Simply leaving the set won’t be so easy until the movie is finished.

Writer/director Judd Apatow rips on major movie franchises

Apatow points his comedy at major Hollywood studios and their action franchises in The Bubble. He takes jabs at every level of production — from the studio head to the cast, director, and crew. However, Apatow goes for all of the low-hanging fruit, as the screenplay he co-wrote with Pam Brady doesn’t ever think outside of the box.

The Bubble packs a message about “celebrity problems” compared to “real problems” that exist for folks outside of their craft. Apatow brings the influencer-turned-actor (Iris Apatow), the actor who doesn’t pay much attention to his own work (Pedro Pascal), the hot mess of a celebrity couple (Leslie Mann and David Duchovny), and the actor-turned-self-help guru (Keegan-Michael Key). However, any semblance of a character arc starting to form is quickly erased.

There’s a clear intention of removing the glamour from moviemaking in The Bubble, while the production tells its cast that the safest place they could be during the pandemic is on a movie set. Apatow front-loads the film with pandemic-based jokes before pivoting to include thriller components that stick out like a sore thumb.

‘The Bubble’ aims for the chaotic tone of ‘Don’t Look Up’ without the humor

The Bubble cast Leslie Mann as Lauren Van Chance and David Duchovny as Dustin Mulray with her pointing a finger in his face facing each other
L-R: Leslie Mann as Lauren Van Chance and David Duchovny as Dustin Mulray | Laura Radford/Netflix

The Bubble has a solid base concept with the central narrative surrounding a quarantined movie set as the cast dwindles into madness. However, the issue is that it simply isn’t funny. The film tries far too hard to hit modern relevance, making TikTok dances both plot devices and the root of jokes for the course of entire gags.

Apatow tucks as many stars as he possibly can into every corner of this film. It’s reminiscent of some of the tactics Adam McKay used in Don’t Look Up, especially his chaotic storytelling. Apatow creates a claustrophobic atmosphere within the hotel but gives the feeling of a large scope with the pandemic angle. The defining difference is that the cast seems bored here.

The Bubble is a radically unfunny comedy that doesn’t land any of its jokes. There are a lot of talented folks attached, but the final product is a jumbled mess without much direction. The Bubble throws a lot at the wall to see what sticks with its ensemble of characters. But unfortunately, nothing sticks — the comedy simply slides right down to the floor.

The Bubble is available to stream on Netflix starting April 1.

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