After two years living in the COVID-19 pandemic, and with life maybe — hopefully? — getting back to a semblance of normal, now might not be the ideal time to be putting out a movie about making a movie at the height of the outbreak. But the vagaries of the world and the movie industry don’t always align, and so we are getting writer/director Judd Apatow’s newest film, The Bubble.
The movie is a satiric look at the difficulties of making a movie during the pandemic, which is meta since they obviously made this movie during a pandemic (it was filmed between February and April 2021 in England). The film-within-the-film is called Cliff Beasts 6, the latest in the “23rd biggest action franchise of all time,” which is cynically being made to give people something to watch during these dark times.
Many of the stars of the first five Cliff Beasts films have been brought back, some willingly and some unwillingly. They include Carol Cobb (Karen Gillan), a bit of a pariah after having skipped the previous film; Lauren Van Chance (Leslie Mann) and Dustin Mulray (David Duchovny), a married couple with a love-hate relationship; Sean Knox (Keegan-Michael Key), who’s fallen down a fake religion rabbit hole; and Dieter Bravo (Pedro Pascal), who deteriorates quickly after arriving on set. Joining them is Krystal Kris (Iris Apatow), a Tik Tok star brought on to give the franchise more appeal to the younger generation.
The story of The Bubble, as it were, is how each member of the cast and crew of Cliff Beasts 6 handles the stringent COVID protocols and extended shooting schedule of the film (hint: not well). Co-written by Pam Brady, the film is mostly just a series of humorous scenes with the various characters around the hotel and film studio bubble. The actors become increasingly aware that the filmmakers (played by Peter Serafinowicz and Fred Armisen) are going to do whatever it takes to get the film finished, even if that means essentially keeping them prisoner.
While there are definitely a lot of funny moments throughout, it’s difficult to call The Bubble a movie. It plays as more like a bunch of random ideas strung together to elicit laughs instead of something with a coherent plot. The only constant is how the isolation from the rest of the world slowly but surely messes with the minds of almost everyone involved, especially as the shoot drags on for over six months.
The film is hit-and-miss with its commentary on life during COVID and the film industry as a whole. It’s ironic that a film with a story that’s partially about getting people back into theaters is debuting on Netflix, so it’s surprising the film doesn’t comment on that. Also, the ideas it contains about COVID protocols are now out of date, a reality they could have acknowledged with a little imaginative foresight.
The cast as a whole makes the most of their roles, with each of them playing into the ridiculousness they’re called upon to perform. Despite the presence of other, arguably bigger names, Gillan is the star of the film and she shines. Apatow appears to have had success with his personal contacts list, as he gets cameos from the likes of Kate McKinnon, Daisy Ridley, John Lithgow, John Cena, Beck, and James McAvoy, each of whom deliver funny moments.
Going back in time during the pandemic shouldn’t be fun, but The Bubble still manages to bring laughs with the absurdity it displays. It’s likely just a one-and-done kind of movie-watching experience, but it works well in that role.
The Bubble is now streaming on Netflix.