What happens when a group of actors filming the sixth installment of a popular action movie series are forced to quarantine together at the outset of a pandemic?
Mayhem. Pure mayhem.
And hopefully some hilarity.
That’s the high concept in THE BUBBLE (2022), a new Netflix movie comedy by writer/director Judd Apatow, the man who gave us THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN (2005) and TRAINWRECK (2015).
And while there is indeed plenty of mayhem throughout, there’s not all that much hilarity, as the crazy shenanigans don’t always translate into laughs. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, and so THE BUBBLE, while not a laugh fest, isn’t a total misfire either.
The screenplay by Apatow and Pam Brady struggles because it too often overplays its hand and goes over the top when it doesn’t need to. Many of the situations, while grounded in the reality of a pandemic, which is fresh in our minds since it is still ongoing, don’t stay real for long and many of the situations deteriorate into unfunny goofiness. That being said, the script throws a ton of gags and jokes at the audience. Most don’t work, but the bits that do are often very funny. So, you have mixed bag of a comedy that is more amusing than it is laugh-inducing.
It also has a fun cast who do their best with roles that aren’t exactly fleshed out, but the talent here makes the most of the material.
Karen Gillan plays Carol Cobb, the actress in the series who left the previous installment to make a different movie, and so when she returns to the set of this latest flick she faces the ire of some of her castmates who are upset that she abandoned them. If there’s a main character here, it’s Cobb, as she gets ample screentime. The ongoing gag of her reasons for quitting the previous movie goes on too long, but the flashback sequence where we see the movie she did make is good for a laugh, which is how THE BUBBLE plays out. You have to get through lots of unfunny bits before you enjoy a payoff.
Gillan is fine here, although I enjoyed her much more in the lead role of last year’s GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (2021). Probably my favorite bit here for Gillan is having Cobb, a character in her 20s, having to argue that she’s not old to the young TikTok star in the cast.
Leslie Mann and David Duchovny play formerly married actors who get back together during the quarantining. Their fiery on-again-off-again relationship is good for a few laughs, but more often than not misfires. Duchovny’s better bits are when his character, who sees himself as the protector of the series, constantly fights with the director over re-writing the script. Mann is a wonderfully comic actor, memorable in such films as THE OTHER WOMAN (2014), for example, but the material here doesn’t give her a lot to do.
Pedro Pascal, the Mandalorian himself, gets one of the best lines of the movie, late in the game when the actors are all at their wits end, and Pascal’s actor Dieter Bravo says, “There are no answers. But there are drugs.” Which sets up one of the funniest scenes in the movie, one of the few where I actually laughed out loud, where they all get high, which is kind of a low brow way to get a laugh, but the sequence is rather creative and definitely funny.
Pascal currently plays the lead character on Disney’s STAR WARS TV show THE MANDALORIAN (2019-2022), where he’s terrific. He was equally as good as DEA Agent Javier Pena on the Netflix TV show NARCOS (2015-17), which goes a long way to helping us forget his less than stellar performance as the main villain in the dreadful Wonder Woman sequel WONDER WOMAN 1984 (2020).
Guz Khan plays Howie, a sex-starved high-strung actor who gets some laughs in his brief screen time. Keegan-Michael Key plays Sean, an actor who is constantly positive, trying to get his fellow actors on board with his quasi-religious beliefs of positive thinking, until he reveals himself to be a fraud. The gag where he only learns to fly a helicopter to go up and not forward is about as unfunny as it sounds.
Peter Serafinowicz is very good as the onsite producer who is tasked with keeping everything together. His cool, calm collected persona makes him the perfect straight man to all the insanity. Fred Armisen makes his mark as the inexperienced director who shot his previous movie while working at Home Depot.
Iris Apatow, the daughter of Leslie Mann and Judd Apatow, is on point as the young TikTok star Krystal Kris.
And Kate McKinnon delivers a scene-stealing albeit brief performance as Paula the Studio Head, the icy cold venomous studio boss who is so cutthroat she hires a security detail that actually shoots any of the actors who try to leave the bubble.
The cast his huge. There are a ton of characters I haven’t mentioned, which is part of the problem with THE BUBBLE. There are so many characters here, each enjoying a small moment or two, but no one really carries this one. There are also many cameos, including Daisy Ridley, John Cena, and James McAvoy, but none really have much of an impact.
One of the funnier parts of THE BUBBLE is when we get to see the actors actually filming their movie, CLIFF BEASTS 6. Their series, CLIFF BEASTS, is about our heroes taking on these mammoth flying monsters. The dialogue is spot on here. It’s awful and sounds a lot like dialogue we’ve heard over the years in the types of action flicks this movie is spoofing.
I had some fun watching THE BUBBLE, but not as much as I had hoped for. The film runs just over two hours, which is a long time for a movie that doesn’t fire on all cylinders. It’s the type of movie where you have to sit through four or five unfunny gags before you get to one that works. A 90-minute version would have been more welcome.
While I found THE BUBBLE amusing, there were just too many misfires in this one for it to be a successful comedy.
I had high hopes, but you might say, it burst my bubble.