The Bubble is an odd concoction. It is, in part, a satire of a film that hasn’t even been released yet: co-writers Judd Apatow and Pam Brady were inspired by the production of Jurassic World Dominion, which was the first major film to resume work after the initial Covid lockdown back in 2020. While it’s not quite a direct spoof, the sixth Jurassic film gets a fair few nods, via The Bubble’s movie-within-a-movie, ‘Cliff Beasts 6’. (Leslie Mann even shares Bryce Dallas Howard’s ginger bob.)
For writer-director Judd Apatow, it marks something of an unexpected departure: after years swimming in the comedy-drama pool — making funny films with emotional, serious stakes such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin or The King Of Staten Island — he’s gone for something straightforwardly sillier here, a tone and plot akin to Tropic Thunder. Establishing an eccentric ensemble of egomaniacs, Apatow imagines an Apocalypse Now-scale disastrous production, where everything that could possibly go wrong does indeed go wrong — with the added element of swabs being shoved up noses.
_The Bubble_ plays almost like a series of comic vignettes, and like any sketch show, it can be hit-and-miss.
With only a loose narrative, The Bubble plays almost like a series of comic vignettes, and like any sketch show, it can be hit-and-miss. The actual spoofed movie scenes, for example, aren’t quite as funny as everyone involved seems to think they are; ‘Cliff Beasts 6’, were it ever to exist, would be The Room levels of bad. The fake actors don’t so much chew the scenery as swallow it whole, adopting hammy accents that even Jared Leto would have second thoughts about. A dinosaur doing a TikTok dance, meanwhile, is enough to break anyone’s suspension of disbelief.
The comedy finds a better hold when we get a sense of the dynamics of the ensemble, and the cast can bounce off each other. In a Brit-heavy line-up, it’s the home team who most consistently bring the goods: Karen Gillan, as the nominal lead of both the real and fake movie, lends flashes of Amy Pond to her Carol Cobb; Guz Khan, of BBC Three’s Man Like Mobeen fame, steals the show with his infectious, wild-eyed energy (choice line: “Suck your mother!”); while comedy duo Ben Ashenden and Alexander Owen — whose Zoom-based comedy made them social-media heroes during the height of the pandemic — make winning cameos as endlessly emasculated mo-cap dinosaur doubles.
Like a lot of Apatow films, it has a scattershot quality that might have benefited from a tighter edit; no comedy movie needs to be longer than two hours. But there is some cathartic fun to be had in poking fun at an experience we have all collectively endured in some way, and as a three-decade veteran of the industry, Apatow gleefully pulls no punches in biting the Hollywood hand that feeds. This, we are told in title cards, is the story of those who “fought heroically to bring distractions to humanity” — which neatly puts everything into context.