Is Judd Apatow’s New Pandemic Meta Comedy, ‘The Bubble,’ Any Good? Here’s What The Reviews Say

“The Bubble,” a meta comedy from the house of Apatow, from comedy patriarch Judd himself, hit streaming website Netflix On April 1. A bunch of actors play a bunch of actors on the show “Cliff Beasts” — some kind of dino blockbuster — and eventually get caught up in the, you know, COVID-19 pandemic. Did we really need a meta comedy about actors navigating a pandemic, when we saw all that play out in real time? Here’s what the reviews say.

We’ve Seen This One Before

Apatow rounded up a bunch of very funny people — wife Leslie Mann, daughter Iris Apatow, Emmy winner Keegan-Michael Key, Oscar nominee Maria Bakalova, David Duchovny, Fred Armisen and more — and cast them as the crew that comes together to make a generic flying-dinosaur sequel, “Cliff Beasts 6.” Like a cross between the latest “Jurassic World” and “Resident Evil” movies (both of which were made under COVID-safe conditions), this gratuitous sequel to a mostly greenscreen franchise serves as Apatow’s chance to skewer the kind of brainless, VFX- driven studio movies that have made adult comedies something of an endangered species. This is his “Tropic Thunder,” with more inside jokes and a lot less for mainstream audiences to recognize or relate to.


Apatow Is Off His A-Game

More likely with this particular project, he conceived an anemic story and tried to elevate a collection of improvised riff moments from his cast into something coherent. Sadly, that makes “The Bubble” perfect for Netflix, where fast-forward allows viewers to skip to the few parts that are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. Apatow hasn’t lost his sense of humor, just his sense of pacing — and perhaps his everyman-friendly perspective over his years of becoming a Hollywood tastemaker.

[AV Club]

Most frustratingly, “The Bubble” is the first Judd Apatow movie that doesn’t feel like a Judd Apatow movie. His brand — honed via comedies such as “Knocked Up,” “Funny People” and “The King of Staten Island” — is talky, slightly overlong, funny-sad cinema. They merge the Seventies melancholy of Elaine May with the Eighties neuroses of Albert Brooks and the Nineties gross-out of the Farrelly Brothers, all the while serenaded by a Seth Rogen chortle. Polarizing though they may be, Apatow’s films are heartfelt, clever and distinctly his. The Bubble feels throwaway and devoid of warmth or character. It ends up being little more than a slight, sluggish Saturday Night Live sketch stretched to more than two hours, with nary an Apatowian fingerprint to be found.

[The Independent]

It’s Time To Retire Meta Comedy, Once And For All

The assumption appears to have been made early in the development of “The Bubble” that just lumping a whole bunch of skilled comedy performers together and having them go stir-crazy as their confinement stretches on and on would be both hysterical and relatable to the rest of us numbered by pandemic tedium. It’s not. The jokes are feeble, the improv is uninspired, the digs at high-maintenance actors are old, and the scenes of actual Cliff Beasts production don’t come close to the endearing quality of the best (or worst) Syfy schlock. There’s none of the wit, warmth or affectionate skewering of genre tropes that makes a film like “Galaxy Quest” such a standout among sci-fi meta spoofs.


New faces — or old faces doing new things — pop across “The Bubble” with enough frequency that it becomes frustratingly possible to see what Apatow was aiming for, and what he might have achieved if his movie didn’t feel like a random collection of unrelated sketches that are linked only by the shared concept between them.


And if that wasn’t enough (reader, it was enough), the movie is also crammed with cameos of legendary talents, a fun thing to see but perhaps a detriment from an editing standpoint. I’m sympathetic here — I mean, who wouldn’t want to include that completely unnecessary (and not super funny) Zoom call scene with John Lithgow, after all? That’s not to say that none of these cameos add to the story — James McAvoy has a moment with Gillan near the end, for example, that had me in tears. But with a 124-minute runtime, even the most impressive cameos start to wear thin. The plot also steers into absurd territory near the end in a way that is jarringly graphic, though the story more or less gets back on track and meanders toward an end.

[Slash Film]


“The Bubble” feels like the least personal film Apatow has directed so far, a film that seems like more of an excuse to just do something during the pandemic, instead of Apatow having something to say. With “The Bubble,” Apatow leans into the worst of his tendencies, and, unfortunately, that causes The Bubble to burst.


Watch the trailer below:

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