Judd Apatow, having seen the horrific incident where Will Smith smacked Chris Rock in the mouth, took to Twitter to say “he could have killed him,” in a now-deleted Tweet. The Bubble, Apatow’s latest directed effort, could kill thousands through sheer boredom. His meta-comedy about actors screwing, screaming and swooning at the camera isn’t as smart as it thinks it could be. This is Spinal Tap was forty years ago and bucked the trend of irreverent meta-comedy. Most are playing catch up, and Apatow doesn’t have the same chops as Larry Charles or Larry David. The only bubble Apatow needs to worry about is the one this all-star cast is trapped in, with him commanding them between a series of asinine comedy bits.
Satire and self-mockery are only funny when someone relevant or competent is behind them. The Bubble has neither and sat in the director’s chair is a former bigshot who hasn’t made a truly great film. They are ample bits of comedy, but nothing spectacular. The Bubble is well below par, but that is to be expected of a director at a loss of what to do next. He made Funny People which wasn’t particularly funny, Knocked Up which felt less like a knockout and more like a barrage of poor-quality sex jokes and boring gags. That is primarily because Apatow has made exactly that style of film for decades. The Bubble isn’t all that different, although its observations can sometimes be solid.
Its issue is that although Peter Serafinowicz and Rob Delaney show up, The Bubble makes the ego-centric performers at the core so washed-up and dull. A shame it is to waste the talents of Karen Gillan and Pedro Pascal, but here we are. Redundant filmmaking at its finest, shuffling the ensemble pieces around to make a little extra sense of utterly abhorrent filmmaking. A Netflix production built up to look sleek and user-friendly means no heart or soul is underlining this. To his credit, Apatow has always managed to infuse a bit of style into his works, especially the earlier and eventful features that he has under his belt. But the times have changed and so has Apatow, instead of irreverent and gross-out humour, he believes cuss words and coronavirus comedy is the new and fresh clientele needed for his setlist. It is not. Neither is as funny as he makes out.
A few jokes, particularly those set up and knocked out by Delaney, are funny. To admit that is no surprise though considering Delaney is a solid stand-up draw and a decent actor. He is never going to turn The Bubble into gold dust though, that is too much for one person to handle. Not even stalwart comedians like Keegan Michael-Key or Kate McKinnon can fix this. Drawing legendary performers and cult heroes like David Duchovny and Leslie Mann can only patch up so many encounters or issues. Not a single cast member can fix this already dated feature, which plays with the pandemic that passed it by. A year too late, closer to two years, actually. A genuine waste, unless The Bubble believes itself to be a satire, which it isn’t smart enough to do.