We are a few days removed from the 94th Academy Awards, but it already feels like Will Smith slapping Chris Rock will be among the most talked about things for the rest of the year and beyond. After the incident occurred, director Judd Apatow in a now deleted tweet said that Will’s slap could have killed Rock. Anyone with common sense knows that such a slap, while painful and inappropriate, was not powerful enough to prove lethal; therefore, Apatow was mocked on social media, even though the rest of his tweet defending comedians was spot on. But you must wonder with the release of his latest film, The Bubble, set for this weekend on Netflix, whether Apatow was merely trying to be funny or attempting to shift the focus from his dumb tweet to himself and his new film. Because unlike his tweet, The Bubble, is not but is completely forgettable and entirely bad.
During the on-going pandemic, a film crew and cast of stars travel to a remote area of England to film a sequel to a Jurassic Park-like franchise called Cliff Beasts 6. The production of this film brings together all sorts of folks, including a director (Fred Armisen) who got his fame after filming something while working at Home Depot; an actor (Keegan-Michael Kay) who is seemingly in a cult; a divorced couple (Leslie Mann and David Duchovny); and a TikTok superstar (Iris Apatow). When everyone arrives, they go through the COVID-19 protocols and quarantine for two weeks before beginning production on the film. Once production begins, chaos ensues for everyone involved in the project. And over claustrophobia settles in, and everyone starts to be at each other’s throats.
Apatow was inspired to make The Bubble after the chaotic production for Jurassic World: Dominion, which was produced during the middle of the pandemic and ran into several issues, despite filming the entire thing within a bubble that only contained the cast and crew. However, what Apatow has written and directed here is anything but funny. The Bubble contains an absurd amount of outdated jokes and gags related to the pandemic that already had been covered in some fashion shortly after the pandemic first hit. The end result of this two-hour slog is a film that not only feels like something an inspiring writer aspiring to work for Saturday Night Live would create, but also comes off as patronizing when it comes to addressing anything related to the pandemic. Apple TV+’s wonderful show Mythic Quest, and more recently HBO Max’s captivating thriller Kimi, handled the pandemic well within the stories they were trying to tell. But here, Apatow beats the subject into the ground and the watch becomes more painful as the story goes on.
Any Apatow-produced or directed film usually brings together a great cast and that is why it’s such a shame that The Bubble, with all its talent, is a colossal waste of everyone’s time. This is without a doubt the filmmaker’s worst directed film, and you have to wonder if any studio ever would have greenlit this project had Netflix said no. In recent years, Netflix has attracted A-list talent in front of and behind the camera for original films, allowing the stars complete creative freedom they may not have gotten from other studios. However, the results have been mixed at best, and you have to wonder if/when Netflix will stop making so many original films with A-list talent when duds like The Bubble are made. We shall see in the near future, and if Netflix does scale back on original films, look no further than The Bubble as a key contributing factor in the bursting of that bubble for other A-list talent trying to get their work uncut.