Directed By Judd Apatow
Starring – David Duchovny, Leslie Mann, Pedro Pascal
The Plot – Sneaking out. Hooking up. Melting down. The cast and crew of a blockbuster action franchise attempt to shoot a sequel while quarantining at a posh hotel from the Covid-19 pandemic
Rated R for adult language throughout, sexual content, drug use and some violence
In what is easily Apatow’s most elaborately ambitious film to date, a few aspects of production offer proof of surprising aspects to a film that is unfortunately is otherwise littered with a litany of problematic instances. Most prominent here is the absorbing authenticity of the movie’s editing scheme, serving not only as as an emotional representation for the barrage of emotions that its characters are constantly experiencing while being cut off from the world, but also as a gauge for the passage of time that represents such mundanity in isolation. Adding to this is also an air of artistic expression in the many C.G backdrops and creature manifestations that the film within the film calls upon, which are surprisingly better than a majority of big budget disaster films with the inflated budgets to muster such artificial properties. Even in scenes and sequences where the green screen is meant to be intentionally cheesy, they’re polished in top quality, and when presented with the behind-the-scenes perspective on how they’re materialized, creates an intriguing educational insight that is all the more impressive when you consider this is from the depiction of a slapstick comedy persisting in the exterior of its narrative. There are also uniquely context-shaping choices in the movie’s soundtrack that evoke with them a sense of fun and exhilaration to sequences of character expression, complete with fourth-wall breaking fantasy that many of us exuded while dreaming about a world we feared we would never return to. Speaking of which, I found the depiction of the pandemic to offer a combination of brutal honesty and sarcastic splendor that did prescribe the only laughs to the experience that I pleasantly enjoyed. Certainly, liberties are taken in the extent of the various experiences, but in being an essential worker myself, I found the material to reflect the silliness and spontaneity of the adaptive measures, which are ripe for spoofing and all the more humorous when you consider that not long ago we too were in the same boat of uncharted territory.
Simply put, this is Apatow’s single worst film to date and one that is constantly at the mercy of its own execution, pulling the film in many creative directions at once. For starters is the alienating two hour run time. Apatow has constantly done this in his slice of life comedies, and to a degree it mostly always works because those films bring with them an underlining heart and nuance that cement importance to the experience. The problem with that notion here is not only that scenes are stretched to painfully forced levels of improvisational comedy, but also that there are so many character arc’s constantly persisting at once, creating a limitation in allowance that keeps them from growing to compelling captivity. One such example involves Kate McKinnon playing a character who isn’t at the setting with our ensemble, yet pops up every twenty minutes on Zoom to take attention away from the narrative. This keeps the storytelling from evolving naturally, bringing with them several halts of continuous momentum that are frustrating and grating on the attention spans that are already put through the ringer because of some of the most arduous pacing of 2022. It’s an overstuffed and bloated director’s cut where scenes that feel like deleted features on a Blu-Ray release are left in the finished product, and by the halfway point of the movie, I felt like I watched the film twice because of their abundance. Beyond this, I found a majority of the performances and ensuing characterization to lack any semblance of humanity for audience engagement. My closest to a success is definitely Pascal, whose arc with pursuing Maria Bakalova cements some precise comedic timing for him that I honestly wasn’t expecting. However, like most Apatow films, nepotism comes into play, this time with both Leslie Mann (His wife) and Iris Apatow (His daughter) brought in to play pivotal characters with one-dimensional limitations to their emotionality’s. This is kind of a coming out party for Iris, who really hasn’t done work since “This is 40” and “Knocked Up”, but I found her portrayal to be more of a type instead of a living, breathing entity, and when combined with the overwhelming instances of moments where the film stops to make a Tik-Tok video (I’m not kidding), it brought out everything about her character that felt pandering to a particular demographic that never felt natural or even vital to the context of the narrative it interjected itself towards. The structure here is also consistently contradictive, with the first and superior act lending itself entirely to the perils of the pandemic, while the second half shifts itself to the commentary of sequelitis in films, and the diminishing returns that come with that intention. This is a solid idea in theory, but the execution never explores it in a way that compliments the previous intention, quickly exuding itself as a dejected, directionless shell that attempts to get by on the wits and charms of its many familiar faces. On this notion, Apatow’s documented indulgence for pointless cameos comes into play once more, this time with seven counted celebrities making one-off appearances, and not one of them bringing with it the kind of comedic effectiveness that could’ve triggered the rejuvenated change from the aforementioned inconsistency that undercuts its appeal. Instead, these appearances add to the already diminished returns that come with such forced and vulgar aspects to the various punchlines that the material constructs, serving as one of the two most condemning aspects of the engagement that should come easy to the man who wrote some of the best contemporary comic classics of the time.
“The Bubble” is an alarmingly noticeable decline for Apatow, whose desperation here for floundering material and disjointed storytelling crafts an underwhelming experience made worse with an unnecessarily bloated run time of the most trying kind. Though the technical merits do elicit improvement for the director outside of his comfort for comedy, this is one perplexing plummet that was better left quarantined from human proximity.
My Grade: 4/10 or D-