The Bubble review – Marvel, Star Wars stars’ new Netflix movie

The Bubble is not funny.

There are jokes. Some of them even land. But they land the way the final bite of a too-rich dessert land, nauseatingly and full of regret.

Judd Apatow’s pandemic comedy is out on Netflix today and has an A-list cast that should make any contemporary film and / or TV lover effectively froth at the mouth. Karen Gillan, Pedro Pascal, Keegan-Michael Key, Maria Bakalova, Fred Armisen – the list, quite literally, goes on. From beloved TV comedians (Guz Khan) to bonafide movie star cameos (Benedict Cumberbatch), The Bubble has them all.

leslie mann as lauren van chance, david duchovny as dustin mulray, the bubble

Laura Radford / Netflix

What it has in cast though it lacks in … well, everything else. The writing is so aggressively tongue-in-cheek your face starts to ache. There are only so many times we can listen to real-life multi-millionaire actors play fictional multi-millionaire actors who whine about being locked up in a literal mansion, being waited on hand and foot (even if those doing the waiting are a bit weird) – while simultaneously bemoaning in their faux-self-effacing way that they know they have not got it too bad – before you want to jab something sharp in your eye.

There is such a thing as too much self-awareness, and The Bubble is full of it. Even the so-called voice of the audience (ie, all the characters that aren’t actors) spout lowest-common-denominator commentary about these A-list celebrities.

Apatow tries to cover all bases of those impacted by the pandemic. A grandmother dies. A waitress is a hero for risking her life to serve food. The horniness that has no outlet (unless of course, you’re Matt Hancock).

pedro pascal, keegan michael key, the bubble

Laura Radford / Netflix

The fundamental problem is that the divide The Bubble is pointing out with a neon ‘LAUGH NOW’ sign is very real and very unfunny. Those with enough money have been able to bend the world to fit their (sometimes very real) anxieties, while the rest of us have to figure it out.

There are real people who fled cities to their second homes, who could afford to take private cars when they needed to get somewhere and referred to riding the subway as ‘being in the trenches’ despite the fact that the rest of us had no choice but to be in the war. Whatever humor The Bubble is trying to find in this divide is lost in no man’s land.

Its best moments are the glimmers of pure derangement that these celebrities have – the ones you could see them engaging in, with or without a pandemic. Pascal’s Dieter trying to have sex with an AI workout bot (one of the few brilliantly funny moments thanks to a deadpan Daisy Ridley), Key’s washed-up actor flailing around for relevance by creating a cult (‘Who defines a cult, anyway?’ he asks with almost-endearing desperation), or the way Armisen justifies his newest film about Skittles. (Diversity! Inclusion! Corporate greed!)

vir das as ronjon, maria bakalova as anika, the bubble

Laura Radford / Netflix

Those moments of self-admonishing satire work because they are both uniquely ‘celebrity’ but also relatable. We’ve all worried about feeling irrelevant or been that lonely and horny. The rest of the film, however, is so swept up in its own opulence while simultaneously shouting ‘We know!’ that there’s no engaging tone.

It’s reminiscent of the trite saying ‘We all have the same 24 hours in a day’ – it’s blatantly untrue and unfunny to be reminded of it.

So why would you want to sit through nearly two hours of being beat over the head with that same message? We all suffered through the pandemic! But some of us suffered differently than others – many of us are still suffering – and no amount of slapstick can wash that anger away.

We know that those with power and money flouted rules, even as they tried to claim they were doing their bit and in the ‘trenches’ with us. It’s a fundamental untruth and to try and turn that into a joke is not only likely offensive to some, but also … it’s just not funny.

The Bubble is now available to watch on Netflix.

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