Film: The Bubble

Oof. There are pandemic movies and there are pandemic movies, and The Bubble (2022) is both of them. The plot of this Judd Apatow film, such as it is, involves Carol Cobb (Karen Gillan), an actor in a tentpole action franchise called Cliffbeast. During the pandemic, Carol is persuaded to return for Cliffbeast 6, much to the consternation of her grudge-bearing co-stars, whom she abandoned on the previous film. Nonetheless, she joins their production bubble at a posh hotel in the English countryside, where after two weeks of quarantine shooting begins—and everything goes spectacularly wrong.

There is half an idea here, about twenty minutes of coherent story, and maybe even a theme, but in the end The Bubble is an aimless, spaghetti-at-the-wall COVID comedy that profoundly fails to organize the copious talent at its disposal. Scads of great performers populates the film, but the script doesn’t do much more than isolate them and let them semi-spontaneously do their thing. Only a handful of performers—Maria Bakalova, David Duchovny, Pedro Pascal, Harry Trevaldwyn—come off well. Oddly, The Bubble reminded me of Tropic Thunder, another Hollywood industry satire theoretically making a point about celebrity privilege. Here, the context is different—the pandemic—as we’re shown the luxurious “suffering” of its cast compared to us regular people. (Kate McKinnon hammers this point home as an out-of-touch studio exec, whose Zoom calls champion lockdown sacrifice even as she globe-trots from one wealthy tourist destination to the next.) Is this a point that needed to be made? Not so much, especially since it’s not telling the audience anything it doesn’t already know. I still might have been down for it had it been funnier, but the script plays out like a ramshackle first draft. A mess, and not in a good way.

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