The Bubble (2022) – Reel Review

Director: Judd Apatow | 2h 6mins | Comedy

A group of actors stuck in a quarantine bubble attempt to make the sixth instalment in the ‘Cliff Beasts’ franchise. 

Since the spread of COVID-19 we’ve seen films that are considered ‘pandemic films’, projects like Ben Wheatley’s In the Earth that had production challenges due to the pandemic, but now we are coming out of it Judd Apatow seems to be one of the first to set their film during peak lockdown and using it for humour. During The Bubble’s bloated runtime (which only stands at 2 hours and 6 minutes) we see jokes about lateral flows, two week quarantines and cooped up delirium – all of which seem incredibly dated despite being so recent. 

It’s not that the world is completely through with the restrictions that have dominated lives since 2020, nor is it that people aren’t ready to reflect on it, it’s more that Apatow has set his film during a time that is simply unfunny. We aren’t at a point where the discomfort of a lateral flow or the mental exhaustion of quarantine are things we laugh about and despite Apatow coming from a purely honest place with his humour, it seems this is a misguided attempt to find humour in a situation that had no need for satirisation. 

The Bubble also attempts to satirise the film industry as well, with its cast of comedic actors all doing their best to portray the stereotypical narcissism of Hollywood stars. Karen Gillan plays Carol, an actress who reluctantly comes back to the fictional franchise. She’s joined by Leslie Mann and David Duchovny playing a chaotic celebrity couple going through a divorce, Keegan-Michael Key as a self-conscious star fearing his own unimportance and Pedro Pascal, who borders on a psychotic break during the entire film as a doomed genius. They all play their parts well, but the film is never able to find direction for any of them. 

Apatow tries to interject some contemporary youth humour into his film by casting his daughter Iris as a TikTok star, who’s been brought onto the movie to pander to a younger audience. Iris handles the role well but there is irony to be had in a film that becomes what it’s satirising. The jokes intended to bring a younger audience feel lost in the shuffle and only add to the disjointed and miscalculated humour the film is already projecting. 

As the film trundles along, its turning point seems to be when the quarantine quickly turns to a hostage situation of sorts. Locked in until the end of the shoot, and after a drug-fuelled night of chaos, the cast hatch a plan to escape the clutches of the films Producer and Director. It’s a film that unfortunately feels packed a little too much with unnecessary baggage, so by the time we reach the climax you feel nothing but exhaustion. 

Other than the odd jokes from Pedro Pascal and Guz Khan, as well as an intriguing look at the difference in a CGI filled fantasy in comparison to its behind the scenes fantasy, there really isn’t anything redeeming about Apatow’s newest Netflix film. He’s a director that’s been at the forefront of most Hollywood comedies over the past 20 years and while I’m sure this won’t be the last film we see from Apatow, The Bubble really does burst before it even gets going.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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