The Beanie Bubble

Colorful performances overshadow under-stuffed script.

Beanie Babies have become one of the most demanded toys in the world. Enough for a truck carrying them to crash, and people grabbing them at the scene. The key to a perfect product like them is to have them stuffed with plastic pellets known as “beans,” rather than the conventional soft stuffing. They can totally be flexible and under-stuffed, which basically represents the message of “Don’t judge a book by its cover” or in this case, material.

The Apple TV comedy “The Beanie Bubble” wishes to tell that story with a terrific cast of Zach Galifianakis, Elizabeth Banks, Sarah Snook, and Geraldine Viswanathan, and under the direction of Kristin Gore (Al’s second daughter) and Damian Kulash (the lead singer of OK Go). And while it doesn’t really have the kind of story to represent the pure colors and texture of the toys, it does have the right kind of direction and performances.

Galifiankis (looking like a slim John Goodman without the beard) plays Ty Warner, the man behind the Beanie Babies. And the movie makes him as a self-congratulatory jerk, because he wouldn’t have made these toys without the help from his partner Robbie (Banks), his girlfriend Sheila (Snook), and his dedicated employee Maya (Viswanathan).

We see Robbie impressed by how Ty is examining regular stuffed animals and seeing what makes them tick, and how he decides to take it a quantum leap forward. By making them less hard and more versatile.

We also see Sheila and her two little girls, who love these Beanie Babies so much, that one of them designs a ghost one known as “Spooky.”

And we see Maya as a college student landing a temp job in Ty’s business, and really committing herself to this game, while denying her traditional Indian parent’s wishes of becoming a doctor. She also manages to create a Beanie Babies website, after being inspired by the success of eBay, which has people selling Beanie Babies. She would make an ideal online marketer, if only she can figure out how to prevent the website from crashing.

And as the product becomes more successful, the women’s credit head off in a downward spiral. The kind that makes Ty think he deserves more than the women do.

“The Beanie Bubble” has some detours in the narrative, marriage proposals, breakups, Maya’s parents criticizing her for changing her life course, and so forth. A movie like “The Social Network” told the creation and rights to Facebook with the right intensity, the kind that really drew us in, and delivered the goods. And “Blackberry” is the most important film of 2023 about the rise and fall of the Blackberry phone. But “The Beanie Bubble” does have the right kind of fluff with the actors, who know how to play characters in such circumstances.

Galifianakis has the consistency of a man who transcends into a greedy man. He wears glasses and has the hair, and he knows how to pose with the Beanie Babies. Banks gives the best performance in the film, when she represents her character’s anger against him. She has the dialogue, womanhood, and attitude to deal with whatever throws at her. And Viswanathan is a charming young actress with a knack for adjusting to various comedy genres (“Blockers,” “The Broken Hearts Gallery”).

The screenplay is a hit-&-miss with most of the hits coming from inside the company and the misses coming through its side tracks. But Kulash and Gore’s direction makes the film look colorful, especially a slow-motions sequence when a truck carrying to toys crashes and everything is flying through the air.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

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This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.

Categories: comedy, Drama

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