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Judd Apatow’s ‘The Bubble’ Brings Us Back to Early Pandemic Days in His Latest Comedy for Netflix

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Judd Apatow’s latest creation, “The Bubble,” is a Netflix original film released April 1, following a group of actors who have to quarantine or “bubble” during the filming of their movie, “Cliff Beasts 6: The Battle for Everest.” The American comedian, film director and producer has created countless comedies such as “The King of Staten Island,” “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Trainwreck.” 

Comedy fans had high hopes for Apatow’s latest film. The cast is full of talent including “The Mandalorian” actor Pedro Pascal as Dieter Bravo, as well as Atapow’s family members including his wife Leslie Mann as Lauren Van Chance and his daughter Iris Apatow as Krystal Kris. With a wildly talented cast and director, this movie had a lot of hype surrounding it. The movie was especially anticipated since it was a relatable, pandemic-era comedy with Apatow’s R-rated humor that was bound to create some laughs.

The film follows a group of actors and film crew that are all part of a franchise of Jurassic Park-like action films called “Cliff Beasts,” taking place in 2020 among the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the film industry already struggling to make new movies, producer Gavin (Peter Serafinowicz) is determined to gather the cast together to film the sixth movie of the franchise. The cast and crew are quarantined or in this case, “bubbled,” together for over 100 days in a hotel in the U.K. while filming takes place. With COVID-19 and influenza scares among the group, the filming is not an easy process. Real life COVID-19 related procedures such as nose swabs, two-week quarantines, new hobbies and isolation-caused anxiety are just some of the relatable aspects that occur. While filming and being isolated for so long, things get messy fast and despite killing flying CGI dinosaurs on-screen, every character of the cast goes into their own spirals of chaos off-screen. Desperate physical interaction, isolation self care, TikTok dances and the idea of feeling as if there is “no escape” are just some of the themes that you will either find yourself laughing or cringing at in “The Bubble.” 

The aspect that stands out in “The Bubble” is its satirical humor that revolves around pandemic activities and trends that took place during the 2020-21 period of worldwide quarantine. This includes the specific type of person who turned the pandemic into a “time of growth and new revelation.” This kind of person could be seen during quarantine bragging about their productivity accomplishments and inner peace. The movie makes light of the “quarantine privileged,” which often fell in the category of influencers and celebrities enjoying their months of isolation in mansions and broadcasting their “hard times” on social media. A quote that stood out referencing this in the movie was when one of “Cliff Beasts” actresses complains and gets the harsh truth response that “people don’t want to hear celebs complain about how hard their movie sets are. They have real problems.” 

Photo provided by Karen Gillan @karengillan/Twitter


In relating to the people who turned quarantine into “a time of improvement,” Sean Knox (Keegan-Michael Key) introduces his new lifestyle brand/motivational system, “Harmony Ignite,” which he started over quarantine. When the main actress of “Cliff Beasts,” Carol Cobb (Karen Gillan), asks about Sean’s new religion, he jokingly assures her it is not a cult; rather, it is a system that provides wisdom and enlightenment. Toward the end of the film, when all chaos is induced for Carol, she again seeks Sean’s guidance as he seems to have motivational knowledge. He tries quoting cliché quotes before breaking into an “I’m a complete fraud, I’m sorry. I didn’t write it, Steve Hardy’s ghost writer wrote the book … During the pandemic, I realized we’re all the same, and I thought I was special, but we’re all the same.” 

Another pandemic trend was the rise in popularity of the social media app TikTok. In the film, Krystal Kris is a TikTok star with 100 million followers. Her character can be compared to real life dancing TikTokers such as Charli D’Amelio or Addison Rae who gained millions of followers during the pandemic. Krystal was cast in “Cliff Beasts 6” to attract a younger audience, a marketing move that many companies utilized with TikTok stars to grow their brands during the pandemic. Krystal even answers the question of auditioning for “Cliff Beasts” by saying, “To be honest, I think they jammed me into this movie because I have a lot of followers.” 

Photo provided by Judd Apatow @juddapatow/Instagram

Krystal takes part in various TikTok dances throughout the film, such as shooting a scene in “Cliff Beasts 6” where she teaches a CGI dinosaur to dance, as well as dancing with the whole cast to express their feelings of confinement in the hotel. She even gets “canceled” towards the end of the film when she escapes the hotel to go party out in the U.K. “Cancel Culture” or being “canceled” is a contemporary term that is used to withdraw support from public figures or celebrities that have done something not socially accepted. In real life, many influencers or TikTokkers were canceled during the pandemic if they were seen out in public during quarantine, sometimes ruining their careers permanently.

Besides social media and motivational quotes, the pandemic brought isolation that led to physical desperation for many people. The film features raunchy scenes of actors and actresses sneaking around to hook up with staff and other people in the hotel. Carol even finds herself in a rendezvous with a soccer player who is also staying at the hotel. Carol is worried she will “cross bubbles,” but the soccer player seductively explains that they would be “making a new bubble.” In the real world, meet-ups like this weren’t completely uncommon during the pandemic.  

Photo provided by Judd Apatow @juddapatow/Instagram

Despite this film’s few funny scenes, relatable pandemic trends and initial appeal toward the average comedy movie buff, it didn’t do as well as planned. “The Bubble” received 24% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an unfavorable critics consensus: “meandering and mostly unfunny, “The Bubble” gums up an all-star cast with hackneyed gags about showbiz and pandemic life.”

This movie provides a hopeful, comedic take on situations and environments everyone can relate to from the prime, beginning era of quarantine. The movie’s main flaw is the dialogue; there seems to be too many cringe-worthy comments that turn what could have been a laugh into something quite senseless.  Even with a top-tier cast, the film’s potential is ruined by its screenwriting and unnecessary plot holes. Regardless, “The Bubble” will go down in history as the first pandemic comedy.

Moorea Pike is an Arts & Entertainment Intern for the spring 2022 quarter. She can be reached at mepike@uci.edu.