Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Ever wonder how movies are filmed now in our post-pandemic times? Judd Apatow’s new scatter-brained The Bubble has got one covered, filtering its comedy through a lens of energetic meta insanity. A film unlike anything Apatow has done before, the frustrations of churning out a project as a pandemic rages in the background are channeled through Apatow’s sassy script co-written by Pam Brady. The Bubble features celebrity cameos galore, and self-indulgent fun that any comedy lover would have a blast with.

The “23rd biggest action franchise of all time,” Cliff Beasts, is approaching a monumental sixth installment! This time, the series is bringing back actress Carol Cobb (Karen Gillan, Oculus, Guardians of the Galaxy), who sat out the fifth movie much to the dismay of several co-stars. There’s just one big problem: COVID-19! The pandemic introduces a litany of new on-set procedures, including constant testing, and the requirement to be placed on a 14-day quarantine period before filming can commence. In the wake of a disastrous role in Jerusalem Rising (where she played half-Palestinian and half-Israeli despite being neither), Carol reluctantly agrees to return to the bombastic blockbuster series that helped skyrocket her career—especially considering that she’s in desperate need of a comeback!

The proposal is for three simple months to get the movie in the can, and then Carol and the rest of the film’s cast can be on their merry way. Naturally, everything that can possibly go wrong does indeed take a turn for the worst. One issue after the next delays production further and further, with everything from script rewrites, positive COVID tests, secret-agent guards with guns, complicated special effects, and walk-offs affecting all aspects of filming. As the laundry list of issues continue to stack, and the days in studio ticking away, the question remains: will Cliff Beasts 6 ever be released?

As far as the film’s general brand of humor, viewers can expect similarities to Ben Stiller’s 2008 masterpiece, Tropic Thunder. Apatow’s flavor of filming a doomed production isn’t as silly or insanely gory, but it does a great job of spoofing big-budget action cliches and caricatures. In the way of its ensemble cast, The Bubble also leans closely to a sort of template that 2013’s This is The End helped to establish. The ridiculous personas of the actors from Cliff Beasts 6 allow Apatow to play in several sandboxes simultaneously while continuing to poke fun at cinema culture at large.

The Cliff Beasts 6 cast includes the following: Krystal Kris (Iris Apatow, This Is 40, Netflix’s Love), an unpleasant young Tik Tok influencer with over 120 million followers who refuses to talk to the cameras without her mom present; Dieter Bravo (Pedro Pascal, The Mandalorian, Netflix’s Narcos) a method actor who says of past projects that he would prefer to just “shit, flush, and move on”; volatile on-again-off-again couple Lauren Van Chance (Leslie Mann, This is 40, 17 Again) and Dustin Mulray (David Duchovny, The X-Files, Californication); always-happy do-his-own-stunts action guy, Sean Knox (Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu, Key & Peele); and demanding prima donna Howie Frangopolous (Guz Khan, Army of Thieves). Every one of them is exaggerated to a preposterous degree. Dustin is the self-proclaimed “guardian” of the Cliff Beasts franchise who wishes to ensure continuity is respected, Dieter obsessively goes over his lines in a wonky accent when forced to quarantine, and Krystal is quick to remind the others that her familiarity with Cliff Beasts consists of “watching the trailer for the second movie once.”

Picking just one favorite is an enviable task, and yet I was drawn to the pretentious drug-addled Dieter due to his insane antics, and Krystal, who evolves beyond the annoying introduction of her character. The colorful director of CB6, Darren Eigan (Fred Armisen, Portlandia, Saturday Night Live) seems designed looks-wise after real-life auteur Edgar Wright, though Darren himself has a constant sense of childlike glee across his face no matter what madness is unfolding before him. Hilariously, Ghostbusters actress Kate McKinnon plays the head of the studio that is financing Cliff Beasts 6, and pops up on constant video chats checking on the progress. She opines financial troubles as she is out skiing, embarking on a safari, and more.

The Bubble makes the decision early on never to dive too deep or take things too seriously—we are all in need of some light entertainment where one can just turn off their brain and enjoy a couple hours of laughter. The deepest it goes on a cerebral level is in passive discussion about real-people problems as opposed to celebrity problems, wherein just making a movie is its own form of personal hell. Genuinely great sci-fi visuals that could have been lifted from any Jurassic Park film play well when Apatow shows us the scenes from inside Cliff Beasts 6.

Judd Apatow did not need to go this hard for a silly diversion, but the amount of genuine love and care put into the film is admirable. The passion for making a movie that is only aiming to entertain the viewer is evident on the faces of every person involved. There is something to be said for The Bubble accomplishing exactly what it aims for, but the film honestly speaks for itself. You know what they say: “the safest place in the world right now is a film set!”

The Bubble traps the audience inside the hellish landscape of moviemaking when it debuts exclusively to Netflix on Friday, April 1st. 

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