The totality of the new pandemic comedy, "The Bubble," reminded me of a scene from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." When Clark Griswold excitedly goes to plug in the electric cord that will turn his home into a spectacle of lights, nothing happens. The switch is off, and he can't seem to figure out why all of his hard work wasn't paying off, and why the lights weren't firing on.
That's "The Bubble" in a nutshell: All the lights are in place, there seems to be an impressive display on the horizon, but just nothing turns on. Nothing works. There are jokes, a fantastic ensemble and clever set-ups, yet the laugh switch rests firmly in the "off" position.
Judd Apatow is a funny guy, and "The Bubble" is the results of his efforts to poke fun at some of the lunacy that came with all of us being shut inside during the past two years of the pandemic. The fictional CG-heavy fantasy adventure film, "Cliff Beasts 6" is about to enter into production, and the cast and crew are forced to quarantine at a swank hotel in England while the film is made. This "bubble" is where they will call home for the next several months, and where all the drama ensues.
Too bad this is a comedy. There are some very funny people involved, from Apatow himself to his real-life daughter, Iris Apatow, who plays a TikTok celebrity that lands a role in the film due to her massive online influence. Fred Armisan is the spacy, eccentric director (a perfect fit), and the cast is filled out by an impressively talented cast, from Keegan-Michael Key, David Duchovny, Karen Gillan, Pedro Pascal and Apatow's real-life wife and muse, Leslie Mann. Maria Bakalova - from the last "Borat" film, is also on board and once again shows her innate charms and talents as a comedic actress.
Somehow, nothing gels. And Apatow - not one known for his precise edits - makes "The Bubble" a claustrophobic experience for the audience...at over 2 hours, this film feels longer, and there is little payoff even if you find the film to be even slightly amusing. The movie goes back-and-forth between what occurs in the quarantine hotel, and actual sequences of "Cliff Beasts 6," and while it is all meant as satire, it feels just as artificial as all of the green-screen surroundings that the film is being shot against.
"The Bubble" is a diversion, but not exactly a humorous one. It's great that these men and women stayed busy during the pandemic, but there has yet to be a film in this sad, new genre - "the pandemic comedy" - that has been able to make these last two years even remotely bearable on-screen.
Run Time: 2 hours 6 minutes.
Starring: Karen Gillan, Iris Apatow, Pedro Pascal, Leslie Mann, David Duchovny, Keegan-Michael Key, Fred Armisen, Kate McKinnon, Guz Khan, Harry Trevaldwyn, Maria Bakalova.
Written and Directed by Judd Apatow ("The King of Staten Island," "Trainwreck," "This is 40," "Knocked Up," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin").
"The Bubble" is streaming on Netflix on Friday, April 1st, 2022.
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