He has a great cast and a renowned director but sometimes the right ingredients still come out as little more than sludge.
Netflix movie The Bubble is another reminder that you can have all the right ingredients for a delicious concoction but swirl it together and sometimes it’s just sludge.
The Bubble has a huge, talented ensemble cast, including Karen Gillan, Pedro Pascal, David Duchovny and Keegan-Michael Key, and it’s directed and co-written by Judd Apatow, the filmmaker behind The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, Knocked Up and Trainwreck.
There are even cameos from the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Beck and John Lithgow.
Yet, rather than a Robert Altman-esque behind-the-scenes satire, The Bubble is a deflated heap.
Maybe the concept was never strong enough – a group of privileged actors are stuck together in a production bubble during the pandemic – or maybe it was in the clumsy execution.
Either way, The Bubble is not the riotous hangout movie it wants to be. It’s not Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s bonkers and self-skewering This Is the End.
Inspired by the real quarantine situation of the Jurassic Park: Dominion cast, The Bubble follows the stars of a dinosaur movie franchise that are about to shoot the sixth installment in the series.
With covid causing chaos across the world, the studio has mandated the cast live in a production bubble, which means only mixing with each after their initial quarantine. But those bubble digs is a lush hotel set within a beautiful English country estate.
Carol (Gillan) needs a comeback role after being roasted for her most recent performance as a half-Israeli-half-Palestinian character trying to save the region from aliens. For the record, neither Carol nor the fair-skinned, red-headed Scottish Gillan should be playing that role – and that’s the joke.
Carol is on the outs with her castmates after saying the previous entry in the franchise, but that’s the least of her – and their – problems. The usual production dramas are compounded by their inability to leave, such as “comic relief” Howie’s (Guz Khan) lack of weed or the on-again-off-again off-screen relationship between Dustin (Duchovny) and Lauren (Leslie Mann) .
There’s also a character (Iris Apatow) whose only reason for being cast is the fact she was 120 million followers on TikTok while the director’s (Fred Armisen) only experience is a movie he shot on his iPhone.
By the time cabin fever sets in and it’s clear that the movie they’re making is an absolute waste of film, everyone is about to lose it. No opulent surroundings or being waited on makes up for being sequestered – especially when you’re used to those trappings and freedom.
There are many insider, self-referential jibes at the entertainment industry but they’re all a bit softball. None of them land a real punch, which is why The Bubble never feels like it’s the lacerating satire it wanted to be.
And a lot of those jokes require a more obsessive knowledge of industry minutiae than the average punter – like the fact big studios often swoop up indie directors fresh off the success of their original vision only to flatten their unique talent in an indistinguishable franchise movie.
Each character is silly and absurd, but not so silly and absurd as to really rip into celebrity entitlement.
And The Bubble wastes a supporting cast in the likes of Borat breakout star Maria Bakalova and comic Vir Das by giving them nothing to do. Only Kate McKinnon’s studio executive makes any real impact.
Without many laughs and little to say, and about as dynamic as Eeyore, The Bubble ends up being as indulgent as those they’re mocking.
The Bubble is streaming now on Netflix