Netflix’s New Movie ‘The Bubble’ Is Fascinatingly Unhinged
There are no words that accurately describe how chaotic this film is.
Over the weekend, Netflix dropped COVID satire The Bubble, directed by Judd Apatow. Not only is the film critically a dumpster fire with 24 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s fascinatingly unhinged in its god-awful chaos.
The film follows a group of fictional C-list actors bunkered down in a COVID-safe bubble for the production of Cliff Beasts: Battle for Everest: Memories of a Requiem. They’re cast in the sixth instalment of the fictional film franchise Cliff Beasts, a seemingly cursed melding of Jurassic Park and pretty much any low-budget shark or monster flick ever made.
The Bubble‘s cast includes Karen Gillan, Pedro Pascal, David Duchovny, Keegan Michael-Key, and Leslie Mann. Each play washed-up actors with enough pathetic baggage to make a Maury Povich episode look like a hard-hitting social justice documentary.
There’s Carol Cobb (Karen Gillan). She’s returning to the Cliff Beasts franchise after getting cancelled for playing a half-Israeli, half-Palestinian alien linguist in an apocalyptic flick called Jeruselum Rising. It’s a backstory that attempts to curtly nod at how poorly Hollywood handles the plight of Palestine, while also calling out ridiculous whitewashing casting practices. But if that alone isn’t enough what-the-fuckery for you, later in the film Carol breaches the bubble to hook up with a soccer player, infects the cast with influenza and ends up vomiting into her castmate’s mouth while they’re hanging off a green-screen cliff.
Next up, Pedro Pascal is Dieter Bravo. Bravo is a horny bisexual stoner acting veteran whose main activities seem to be doing drugs, practising the perfect ethnically ambiguous accent, and being rejected after asking random members of the cast and crew to have sex with him. In one cursed sequence, Dieter is rejected by a hotel employee and so goes back to his room to have totally hallucinated sex with his in-app personal trainer who takes the form of Star Wars‘ Daisy Ridley. I won’t spoil the other celebrity cameos in this film, but they’re equally as wild.
Lest we forget Sean Knox (Keegan Michael-Key), the low-key celebrity cult leader with a severe case of internalised ageism. Knox spends much of The Bubble doing aggressive parkour to prove he’s in peak physical condition and trying to recruit people into his cult Harmony Ignite, that’s based on the self-help book he pretended to write. At one point, he gets high on drugs and hallucinates the cast all have the face of Benedict Cumberbatch.
But perhaps one of the film’s most unhinged moments comes when Lauren Van Chance (Leslie Mann) attempts to escape the bubble on rollerblades. After the studio hires a top-notch security team to prevent the actors from escaping, Van Chance attempts to leave in the dead of night on rollerblades. However, she trips the Mission Impossible-Esque laser censors, prompting one of the guards to shoot off her hand. For the rest of Cliff Beasts’ production, Van Chance’s character is played by a male crew member in a green-screen suit and blonde wig.
This recount barely scratches the surface of how chaotic this silly goofy Netflix film is. The comedy doesn’t always land, especially the jokes centred on TikTok influencer cast member, Krystal Kris as they seem to be written by someone with very little understanding of how TikTok works. As Katy Rife wrote in a review for Polygon, the failed comedic moments of The Bubble really do feel “like people trying to start a fire by rubbing two wet sticks together.”
The Bubble can’t decide between ham-fisted self-awareness of how utterly useless actors and celebrities seemed during lockdowns, or equally as desperately trying to get you to care about the self-inflicted plights of these actors as they try to escape the bubble. Where it lands is some half-assed nihilism that gestures vaguely at why celebrities angered people during this time without ever really milking it for any decent comedic commentary.
The movie also feels way too long. Bojack Horseman was right when he said Apatow’s second acts feel endless and The Bubble is no different. While the film does try to lean into that to recapture the purgatory of lockdown, it’s not exactly something viewers want to relive. To quote IndieWire‘s review: “The Bubble crystallizes the unique pain of watching a woefully dated satire about the same crisis you’re still trying to outlast”.
But I’m going to argue the film’s only redeeming factor is how unhinged it allows itself to be BECAUSE it’s stuffed with pathetic celebrities making an inherently useless film. Many of the jokes are inexcusable, especially the horrendous Israel-Palestine conflict joke. But there’s something to be said for how, even at its funniest moments, The Bubble is never boring. Is it so bad it’s good? That’s up to you.
The Bubble is streaming on Netflix if you dare.