The Bubble just doesn’t work and pops so easily for offering so little.
The Bubble (2022) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on April 14, 2022
Rating 1.5 /5
Hollywood satire can be hard within a Hollywood film with big-name actors. It’s hard because you can very much sense the line that is approached and never crossed, merely dancing around it more than anything. Judd Apatow directs this picture in a manner that pokes fun at actors amid the Covid-19 pandemic but only musters up a messy and smug satire. The result is a film that is more of a self-serving mockery than it is a comical commentary on the nature of the industry.
The premise of the film is at least a funny idea. The popular but shlocky Cliff Beasts film franchise is heading into the production of its sixth film, Cliff Beasts 6: Battle for Everest: Memories of a Requiem. The ensemble cast has reassembled, including members who previously thought they were done with the series, a mild bit of commentary on how sequels will often dig up their previous stars. One returning actor is Carol Cobb (Karen Gillan), having little choice after making the problematic choice of being a white woman acting as an Isrealean character. With her career washed up, she decides she might as well do Cliff Beasts 6 and see the old gang again.
Production of the film just happens to coincide with the Covid-19 pandemic so extra precautions are taken. The actors and filmmakers will all be working within a bubble of a mansion to keep everyone safe and healthy during production. This entails quarantining for weeks, driving many of the actors mad. Of course, production will not go according to plan and everything turns upside down with feuds, relationships, work ethics, and some violence is thrown into the mix in case anyone gets bored.
This type of film has a huge cast that is all trying for laughs and you have to question just how much of it was improv that they had to come up with on the spot. Pedro Pascal plays an egotistical actor who craves sex, to the point where he won’t stop asking people if he can have sex with them. David Duchovny is an actor who takes his job far too seriously, arguing over the specifics of the script and aspects that don’t make sense to him. This leads to him clashing with the ego-driven independent filmmaker played by Fred Armisen, who has also put way too much thought into a film where the Cliff Beast monsters of the movie will at one point dance. Leslie Mann also has an on-off relationship with Duchovny’s character, as well as favoring herself to be the real star of the picture.
The rest of the stars assembled are pretty bare-bones characters. Keegan-Michael Key is a wellness guru, Iris Apatow is an obnoxious TikTok star, Kate McKinnon is an uncomfortably cheerful studio executive, Guz Khan is a silly short-fused actor, and Peter Serafinowicz is a stern executive producer who hates this whole experience. There are also some snooze-worth cameos by Benedict Cumberbatch and James McAvoy where they can do little more than remind you of the movies they acted in. The only joke present with McAvoy is that he is only recognized as Professor X from the X-Men movies.
Even the commentary on Covid-19 with film productions is so tone-deaf that I kept waiting for ANY of these jokes to land. It’s yet another film where it feels as though Apatow wrote a rough outline and hoped that the all-star ensemble could fill in the blanks with funny. They try but they’re working with very little here, even for playing within their own wheelhouse. Here’s a scene where characters have awkward sex and here’s one where they all do drugs. The bit seems funnier for the premise than the assembly, where few laughs are had beyond the meta nature that requires a severe peering to find the comedy in all this.
The Bubble just doesn’t work and pops so easily for offering so little. There’s a pitch-perfect scene that sums up the film, where a bitter David Duchovny tells the director that he’ll reluctantly stick to the terrible script that he’s been given, trying to make the best of a bad situation. The best present here is merely a lukewarm satire of Hollywood that is more parody or roasting than anything else.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.