LONDON: Before Facebook rebranded, the word ‘meta’ didn’t have quite the social stigma attached to it that it does now — apart from when it comes to movies. Because, honestly, the number of so-called ‘meta’ films worth watching can be counted on one hand. And, sadly for the cast and crew of “The Bubble,” that doesn’t look like changing anytime soon.
Comedy powerhouse Judd Apatow directs and co-writes this pandemic-set film, which tells the story of a group of cast and crew making a movie under COVID-19 quarantine conditions — hence the title. The creative team behind movie-within-a-movie “Cliff Beasts 6” must do whatever it takes to ensure UK-based filming on the movie continues despite lockdowns, social distancing and the challenges of keeping an eccentric ensemble cast locked together for six months. To portray his fictional stars, Apatow has assembled an impressive roster — including his wife Leslie Mann and his daughter Iris Apatow, alongside Karen Gillan, David Duchovny, Keegan-Michael Key, Pedro Pascal, Guz Khan, and Peter Serafinowicz and Kate McKinnon as movie execs. And a sprinkling of cameos add further star power. So it should be easy to find something to love here. It really should.
The problem is, in poking fun at how silly it is for megastar actors to feign suffering when being paid to make a movie during a pandemic, it simply reminds audiences that megastar actors haven’t exactly had it tough over the last few years. And while there’s some almost-funny sending up of Hollywood tropes, it’s hard to figure out exactly what “The Bubble” is about. It’s tough to feel sorry for a group of people cooped up in a luxury hotel, with their every need catered for and every whim indulged. And it’s hard to find it funny — or surprising — when they’re revealed to be, on the whole, terrible people.
Once those two narrative devices have been thoroughly exhausted (which happens pretty quickly, it appears that Apatow — surprisingly, given his impressive track record — doesn’t have anything else up his sleeve.