Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 6 minutes, Director – Judd Apatow
The cast and crew of Cliff Beasts 6 experience rising tensions amidst an extensive pandemic-shoot, especially when bubbling together in a hotel.
It feels like Judd Apatow’s The Bubble was one of the first films to be announced in response to the pandemic and yet it feels like it’s taken quite a while to finally arrive and drop on Netflix. Perhaps something which slightly matches one of the biggest feelings that the film itself creates, a point echoed from a number of Apatow films, that at just over two hours it’s that bit too long. There’s no denying the amount of famous faces and cameos, and awkward TikTok dance sequences, that are crammed into that 126 minute space, however after a while it begins to feel like the film is simply involving such figures for the sake of it instead of giving them something funny to actually do. A frustrated cry of “I don’t like movies, they’re too long” can somewhat be felt part way through – well, the latter part can – as the various running gags begin to show weary legs.
Aside from the famous faces that pop up throughout for the most part we follow actress Carol Cobb (Karen Gillan), returning for the sixth instalment of the hit Cliff Beasts franchise – although it’s made to feel like these are becoming direct-to-DVD ventures led by unheard of first-time directors (Fred Armisen) – after having missed out on the fifth to make the controversial Jerusalem Rising. With tensions already lingering in the cast for with this rift the frustrations can only grow higher as they put up with the various restrictions and limitations of filming during a pandemic. Or rather, not filming in a pandemic. With various illnesses and COVID cases striking the set the initial three month span of the shoot continuously extends, forcing the cast and crew into a constant cycle of self-isolation in their cramped luxury hotel rooms.
While we primarily follow Carol throughout the film we still get to see and understand plenty about the various other faces who make up the titular bubble. Mostly because the majority of them only really get the general personality that their running joke provides them with. Most of the cast try to do their best with giving their characters something a bit more, but with each figure being largely defined by a recurring gag it’s a bit difficult to do so. Lead actor Dustin (David Duchovny) finds himself increasingly frustrated with the script which he wants to re-write, while patching things together with on-again off-again partner/ wife Lauren (Leslie Mann). Meanwhile other recurring franchise faces include Sean (Keegan-Michael Key), who has written a book which has started a religion which isn’t a religion but also isn’t a cult, and Dieter (Pedro Pascal – who claims the highlight moment of the film while wielding a flamethrower), needs a fair deal of drink and drugs to get him through the shoot. Add in TikTok star Krystal Kris (Iris Apatow), who doesn’t know that YouTube is still a thing…, and you have a group of not only tired jokes, but people who are going to increasingly get on each other’s nerves, not to mention the hotel employees.
While there are some chuckles here and there they largely appear in the opening half an hour of the film, when there’s still some steam in the tank. Afterwards things prove to be in some form of cycle, going over themselves again and again as the joke is made very clear. These actors are in a luxury hotel and working, but feel trapped despite their surroundings and circumstances. It’s pointed out by the film multiple times, it becomes a recurring point and is screamed and shouted by a number of the cast members. And then it becomes part of the apparent loose narrative, drawing it out that bit more. By the end The Bubble feels more like a bunch of ideas thrown in while filming instead of something formed from a polished script. There seems to have been little for the cast to actually run on – but at least they seem to have had a nice time making the film – meaning there’s little beyond the one-joke nature of many of the figures who pop up throughout. It quickly becomes overlong and bland. Providing little to hook onto and engage with, removing any other potential humour which could be found within and in the end clearly relying on its cast and cameos to do something with the weak and tired material.
Relying on a selection of famous faces to bring something to the one-joke characters there are a few chuckles in the early stages of The Bubble before it all wears thin in the lengthy run-time.