“The Bubble” (2022), is a two-hour meta-comedy, written and directed by Judd Apatow, about celebrities filming a dumb action movie during the pandemic. Had I known that information going in, I probably would not have watched it. I really wish I had known that information.
There is simply nothing as cringey as a poorly done meta-joke and this movie is a two-hour-long meta-joke that never becomes funny. There are a few funny bits throughout. Ignoring the film’s much larger flaws there may even be enough funny bits to make this a watchable movie, for some people, Judd Apatow tends to be divisive. But this movie’s greatest flaw runs deep, that flaw being no one wants to see a heightened satire about the pandemic.
Maybe in a decade, we can all reminisce and laugh at the ridiculousness of the coronavirus era. But for now, it’s just our lives, which is to say boring and exhausting. Funny movies serve as an important form of escapism, that few want bogged down by reality. That is not to say quality comedy cannot be made about the state of the world right now—it is just difficult. The only great examples I have seen are season one of “Staged” and the COVID-19 season of “Superstore.” These shows keep their comedy extremely relevant—they are full of likable characters and tend to be written in a subtle, down to Earth way. “The Bubble” emulates none of these qualities. This film satirizes the pandemic as if it were in the past and to watch a film with that perspective is insufferable.
A massive failure of “The Bubble” is its characters. It has a great cast, the central group of characters is entirely made up of talented big-name comics and actors, but no one shines. No character nor performance is memorable. It is unclear who viewers are even expected to like. Every person is an uncharismatic unrealistic antagonist, with ridiculous, soulless relationships and laughably hackneyed arcs. Given such a large group of awful characters, viewers have no reason to care about anything going on in the film. And the plot surely does not offset such a deficit of likability.
A lot happens throughout “The Bubble.” Many people have sex, a finger gets cut off, three full-length high production TikTok dance numbers occur with the entire cast, none of which are stemmed by plot nor serve any purpose other than to make this far too long movie even longer. But no things that happen actually matter. Most subplots go nowhere and are made up of two characters having obviously improv-based conversations for three to eight minutes. These scenes make up nearly half of the movie. It seems safe to assume these minimal production, two-actor segments were featured so heavily because of difficulties filming during the pandemic, but they slow the movie down and muddle the central plot. Plus, while the central cast is made up of some great actors, not all of them have a lot of experience in comedy, and thus attempts to keep long improvised bits funny and entertaining fell flat.
“The Bubble” takes so many liberties in assuming it is funny. There is an attitude throughout that screams; if characters are having fun and making self-aware jokes, the audience must be entertained. But that just was not the case. The characters were annoying villains so I did not care about them. The plot was too distracted to settle on a solid threat, goal or structure, so it did not hold my attention. Jokes were outdated, side characters got too much screen time and to top it all off, I kept being reminded that we are living in a pandemic.
I don’t want to say “The Bubble” is offensive because that is what this movie expects us Gen Z-ers, whom it repeatedly mocks, to say. But this film offended me. I was offended, as a youth, a woman, a Jew, a cinephile and a human being, by just how awful this movie truly is.