Netflix seemed like they were cueing up a fun comedy with Judd Apatow’s latest film, The Bubble, but its release on April Fool’s Day couldn’t be more fitting, as it’s simply a crude and unfunny joke on viewers.
From its first trailer, The Bubble was initially shown as a Jurassic Park spoof titled, Cliff Beasts 6: Battle for Everest: Memories of a Requiem, and it wasn’t a half bad idea. It’s tough to imagine Netflix subscribers passing up a star-studded dinosaur flick that’s so bad it’s good. After all, why shouldn’t Netflix try to have a Sharknado of their own? And the idea that it would be starting on the sixth movie in the franchise sounds like the perfect way to introduce a garbage-fire franchise. Unfortunately, it was later revealed that Cliff Beasts was just the film within Apatow’s actual film and based on what we get with The Bubble, I wish we’d gotten Cliff Beasts.
The Bubble follows a group of actors attempting to make the sixth installment of the Cliff Beasts franchise during the COVID-19 pandemic, struggling with the health and interpersonal obstacles they deal with throughout production. The idea of depicting filmmaking during the pandemic isn’t bad and the premise generates some solid laughs. Some moments during quarantine montages can be funny and there are some good jokes about how serious production is at keeping everyone healthy—which they continuously fail at throughout. Unfortunately, The Bubble‘s confusing tone, annoying characters, and humorless antics make it a tough watch.
For someone who can usually create interesting, personal, character-driven stories, it’s tough to say exactly what Apatow was trying to do here. Although this cast is filled with likeable names, including Karen Gillan, Keegan-Michael Key, Leslie Mann, Pedro Pascal, and David Duchovny, none of them thrive as these characters because they’re all written to be incredibly shallow. Their distinct personalities simply feel like parody caricatures that aren’t funny and genuinely become too much early on. They simply range from trying too hard to be excessively weird to annoyingly needy and these characters never come with any interesting personal aspects. Even when the film tries to touch on the more personal arcs and problems of these characters, it often takes a crude or aggressive approach that completely detaches viewers from the moment.
The Bubble barely even tells a cohesive story, as scenes simply feel roughly stitched together to create a jarring viewing experience. The constant shifts in focus between characters is all over the place both in terms of story direction and tone, making it tough to grasp what’s really happening or where things are going. Often, it just feels like a bunch of skits and ideas forcibly stuck together with some bland celebrity cameos sprinkled in here and there. Even when the film sees its group of actors acting in the Cliff Beasts movie, it just isn’t that fun. There might be a few physical gags that play with the idea of a behind the scenes glimpse at movie making, but overall, these scenes carry this cynical snark that takes itself too seriously, especially given that Cliff Beasts comes off like a B-movie horror franchise like Tremors.
Honestly, The Bubble embodies the blandest parts of the humor in Apatow’s films, as its sex and drug-fueled sequences are devoid of any wit or charm. It’s almost like the film is so bored of its usual plot that it just throws in hallucinatory jokes or sexual appetites to spice things up. Instead of adding anything of value to the characters, these additions only add to the film’s agonizing runtime and dreadful pacing. It’s also tough to tell what The Bubble is trying to be, satire or parody. If it’s trying to be a satire about working in COVID, it fails to deliver any discernible meaning or takeaway on COVID life. If it’s a parody, it simply isn’t a clever or engaging enough to make you laugh at its ridiculousness.
Maybe one day we’ll get a hilarious dumpster-fire film franchise from Netflix that embodies what Cliff Beasts should’ve tried to embrace, but, for now, we simply have a comedic failure that struggles to make you laugh and effectively utilize its COVID setting.