‘The Bubble’- Netflix Movie Review: Not One of Judd Apatow’s Best

That Judd Apatow guy knows his way around comedy, doesn’t he? Besides producing some of the genre’s all-time greats like Superbad and Bridesmaids, he’s been a recognizable name for anything he’s attached to with his features film dealing with the different facets of life for the main characters. His filmography consists of four I’m a fan of, with a few dividing some, but I usually anticipate what he comes up with next. The Bubble is his latest with an interesting concept. It was already starting strong with the fake promotions for the movie within the movie we’re watching. However, the bad news is that even with a big cast, it wasn’t enough to make his Netflix venture watchable. 

The sixth installment in the mega-blockbuster franchise “Cliff Beasts 6: Battle for Everest: Memories of a Requiem” is set to begin production in October 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic still a growing problem around the world. Once arriving, the cast and crew require to self-quarantine inside a beautiful hotel in the English countryside. One of the actors involved is Carol Cobb (Karen Gillan), returning as Dr. Lacey Nightingale after missing out on the last film and needs a comeback after her last movie, “Jerusalem Rising,” was a complete failure. She’s working with her former co-stars: Including Dustin Mulray (David Duchovny) and Lauren Van Chance (Leslie Mann), an ex-couple who might rekindle their on-and-off-again relationship; Sean Knox (Keegan-Michael Key), who loves his stunts and basically created his lifestyle brand or “cult;” and Howie Frangopolous (Guz Khan), the standup comedian and the series’ comic relief. They’re also being joined by new cast members Kristal Kris (Iris Apatow, the youngest daughter of Mann and Apatow), a famous TikTok star with no prior acting to reach the younger audience, and Dieter Bravo (Pedro Pascal), a serious actor all about sex and drugs while off-camera.

The film leading the charge is indie director Darren Eigan (Fred Armisen) in what could be his big break after his Sundance hit. Everything should’ve been an easy three-month production in their attempt to finish this. Though it doesn’t seem likely when staying inside, “The COVID Bubble” is much tougher with numerous problems with rewrites, positive cases, and the restless chaos of trying not to lose their minds.

Usually, I would keep clear from recent movies that needlessly have to throw the pandemic into the premise because we’re still in it after more than two years if no one noticed. But filmmakers can accomplish it without making it tone-deaf. The upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion inspired Apatow to the idea of The Bubble after the crazy production the cast and crew of what will be one of this summer’s biggest hits went through at the time. This could’ve been a worthwhile satire on the film and entertainment industry’s desire to film expensive movies during a pandemic, as everyone involved was doing the same thing with daily procedures. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as it wanted it to be, especially coming from Apatow and his co-writer Pam Brady with little to any good ideas brought here to execute them properly.

I couldn’t believe this was from the same mind who brought us The 40-Year-Old Virgin and his previous hit, The King of Staten Island (which was on VOD due to theaters closing). Why it’s sad is because I didn’t have to thought of this being an “Apatow film” since it almost strays away from his typical brand of humor and its lack of interest in its characters. A behind-the-scenes glimpse of making a fictional film during a pandemic hasn’t been done before, and it shows the middle of a scene before and after added effects are added in with the sets and green screen. Amusing seeing how we’re watching what’s meant to be an awful movie with flying dinosaur-like beasts. Everything inside these characters is tension and stress that can’t be avoided when feeling like hostages. Everybody’s doing what they can when working with a talented writer/director, but they’re playing professionals I didn’t think were good enough to carry through its two hours. For this to be overlong in typical fashion is nothing new and it should’ve been 20 minutes shorter, but failing at being a comedy makes me pissed off. The jokes didn’t work when a number of them were outdated for the COVID-related humor that’s never funny at the start. As a result, I only found myself laughing probably twice the whole time.

And we have a stacked ensemble I like; you only wish they were in a better movie to hold their talents together. The development besides Gillan’s character wasn’t there if you don’t want to see the months working with them on set. Pedro Pascal’s performance was great if I had to pick a stand-out. He’s someone looking for drugs and sex almost at every corner, not to get bored out of his brain and desperately tries to be alone with Maria Bakalova’s hotel clerk. Everybody else is okay though they weren’t enough to elevate the plot from being better.

The most this tried to be humorous was having not two but three forced TikTok dance sequences to pad out the runtime. I’m almost 26, and even I know these aren’t engaging. This should’ve been the perfect opportunity to make fun of Hollywood and get on board, but the time wasted on this made me want to watch Tropic Thunder again since that did it well and is worth recommending. I felt disappointed once it was over, knowing it wasn’t how I wanted to spend my Friday evening. While I’m not particularly a fan of Funny People or This Is 40, respectively, they made an effort not to consider them bad. There’s no doubt this will have everybody claiming this to be his worst yet. What will his follow-up be about? Who knows, but all I know is it has to be a solid mulligan for what we got. However, we did get an Adam Levine song during the end credits I didn’t expect to enjoy more.

Overall, The Bubble is sadly a misfire from writer/director Judd Apatow. This satirical pandemic comedy failed to connect with me despite the incredible cast. Overlong, uninteresting characters and surprisingly unfunny, it doesn’t deliver anything memorable

Grade: [D+]

The Bubble is now available to stream only on Netflix. Runtime: 126 Minutes. Studio: Netflix

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