Hollywood’s reaction to the pandemic was hilarious. As awful and tragic as the last few years were for so many people, we also saw Batman shutting down a film set because he was sick, Tom Cruise taking on COVID with two Mission: Impossible movies and Gal Gadot convincing all her friends to cringe-sing ‘Imagine’.
And so we come to The Bubble, Judd Apatow’s new meta-movie satire about the weirdest time in Hollywood history. Inspired by the slightly ridiculous production of Jurassic World: Dominion – a film that forced its entire cast and crew into a “bubble” in an English country hotel so they could carry on shooting in lockdown – Apatow has assembled a fantastic cast of A-listers and friends for his take on the pandemic. Unfortunately, it’s not very funny.
It all starts so well too. Jurassic World here becomes “Cliff Beasts”, a long-running dinosaur franchise that’s struggling to stay fresh. Money’s tight and so the sixth sequel has reloacted to England to try and keep the studio afloat at all costs. As the cast turn up at a stately home, they’re all swabbed and masked and told to quarantine for two weeks. Cue a great montage that condenses Bo Burnham’s Inside to 30 seconds of eating/wanking/bingeing/crying.
As for the all-star cast, there’s Karen Gillan as Carol Cobb, an action star who reluctantly returns to the dino series after making a misjudged turkey about the Israel/Palestine conflict. Iris Apatow (Judd’s daughter) is Krystal Kris, a TikTok influencer who’s never acted before. Then there’s Pedro Pascal’s Dieter Bravo, an over-seasoned Hollywood vet channelling Benicio del Toro; Leslie Mann’s insecure second-string star, the British comic relief (Guz Khan), David Duchovny’s Jeff Goldblum stand-in and Keegan-Michael Key’s pumped-up lead (with Dwayne Johnson’s positivity and Tom Cruise’s love of a good cult).
Around them we have the film’s crew (led by Fred Armisen’s indie director made-good and Peter Serafinowicz’s mad producer) along with everyone else stuck in the same hotel. That’s including love-sick concierges, over-enthusiastic safety advisors and randy international footballers. Throw in a handful of big-name surprise cameos and you have a comedy brimming with talent and great ideas that seems all the more frustrating when hardly any of it actually works.
There are a few highlights (Iris’s celebrity TikTok dances, one hilarious drug trip cameo, Pascal being a letch and Gillan’s spiral of madness) but most of the film bombs hard enough to seem slightly embarrassing. Apatow is great when he’s making movies about normal people, and he’s even better when he’s producing someone else’s script, but here he just seems overwhelmed. He ends up falling back on famous friends, dino dicks and musical routines to cover all the flat jokes. Someone’s probably going to make a great Hollywood satire about the last few years of the pandemic, but this definitely isn’t it.
- Director: Judd Apatow
- Starring: Karen Gillan, Pedro Pascal, Leslie Mann
- Release date: April 1 (Netflix)