The Bubble Movie Review: A general lack of humour in this meta-comedy set in Covid times
A general lack of humour in this meta-comedy set in Covid times
The Bubble is supposed to have been inspired by the making of the upcoming Jurassic World Dominion. With a massive cast (a number of professional comics among them) and a host of cameos from seasoned Hollywood A-listers, one would expect the film to have been so much better. A decent premise - a bunch of spoiled, brattish and vain stars descend on a London hotel to join the bubble for a big-budget monster sequel shot in the early days of Covid - is let down by its writing. And by writing, I refer specifically to its comedic fare. There are instances of uproarious humour in the script, but such parts are few and far between. And for a film that drags its legs over the two-hour mark, this lack of worthy laughs leads to an overall sense of boredom. Despite an assembly line of comics and comedic actors on the roster, it is worth wondering why the makers aren’t able to get the best out of them. Having a Saturday Night Live mainstay like Kate McKinnon in a supporting, unfunny role as the brutish head of a big studio confounds me no end; if she doesn’t get a starring role in a Hollywood comedy, who does? A below-par performance from Keegan-Michael Key, a talented professional comedian, no less, is another mystery. David Duchovny may not necessarily fit the role of a standard comic actor, but going by his past roles, it is easy to gauge his natural predisposition for humour. If that isn’t bad enough, there are bland, minute-long cameos by John Lithgow and Benedict Cumberbatch, fundamentally hilarious men. Karen Gillan has enough potential to ace the genre of comedy (Jumanji is proof enough), her lead actress character of Carol Cobb flatters to deceive; her laugh-worthy and entitled moments are undermined by her ultimately disappointing character arc. The acting isn’t the real concern here, the direction and poorly sketched characters are. There is a severe under-utilisation of the sheer talent pool at hand.
Director – Judd Apatow
Cast – Karen Gillan, Pedro Pascal, David Duchovny, Keegan-Michael Key, Leslie Mann, Guz Khan, Iris Apatow, Fred Armisen, Peter Serafinowicz, Kate McKinnon
Streaming On – Netflix
The film begins on a comically strong footing, with Gavin (Peter Serafinowicz), the British executive producer of a campy, big-budget monster sequel called Cliff Beasts 6, thanking assistants Gunther and Bola for joining them in the bubble, before briefing them about what to expect. He says, “Actors are animals. You are animal handlers. Sometimes, they wanna play with you. Sometimes, they’ll rip your b*lls off.” “Don’t listen to anything they say. They’re liars. They literally lie for a living. That’s their literal job, yeah? his PA interjects. “Don’t party with them. Don’t tire them out. Don’t f*** them. Always tell them they’re fantastic in the movie,” Gavin states, before the PA goes, “They’re very insecure people. They need constant praise.” Gavin’s deadpan delivery (as well as his PA’s) pitted against the expressions of would-be horror on the faces of the assistants, is a sight to behold! It had me in splits for minutes together. A worthy start that does not sustain!
The best scenes come from the supporting cast, whether it’s the aforementioned assistants taking their boss’s advice too literally, the woefully shoddy Covid protocols being followed or the hapless hotel staff dealing with the incorrigible cast. The film-within-a-film parody lends itself to digs at the fickle nature of superstardom and showbusiness. But in its dire pursuit to be self-deprecating, it fails to make the cut for either a ribald comedy or an intelligent satire. In the principal cast, Guz Khan’s absolutely unhinged actor-character of Howie, is the standout. His opening line is one for the ages. “We are allowed to smoke weed in the room? I forgot to bring my edibles,” he says, before proceeding to recognise Carol and hug her. Before you know it, two men in full PPEs appear out of nowhere, dragging him away, kicking and screaming. Then there’s his meltdown sequence at a meditation session headed by Bola. Bola gets into their heads, but no one loses it more than Howie, telling Sean (Keegan-Michael Key) to shove his new-age cult talk up his behind and grabbing veteran star Dustin (Duchovny) by the unmentionables. Slapstick comedy at its best! His sudden escape from the set following that scene rings a death knell for The Bubble.
The story’s pandemic humour falls mighty flat. It may have struck a chord back in the initial months of Covid-19 (the time period of the film) but now, with Coronavirus fatigue well and truly a thing, it fails to evoke anything more than a tepid response. Keeping in mind the big screen tropes and caricatures, maybe it would have made more sense for the cast to play fictionalised/zany versions of themselves. The Bubble offers a decent premise that fails in its execution. Considering the acting talent at its disposal, the film ought to have been much funnier!