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‘The Beanie Bubble’ review: When the product movie bubble bursts

By July 31, 2023No Comments4 min read
Elizabeth Banks and Zach Galifianakis facing each other in THE BEANIE BUBBLE

This review of The Beanie Bubble was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Starring Elizabeth Banks and Zach Galifianakis, The Beanie Bubble is yet another nostalgia product film, and it’s no collector’s item.

When you think about Beanie Babies, you probably don’t immediately think about the creator of the little stuffed animals that took over the world in the late 90s. In The Beanie Bubble, we get to see the mostly true story about the man who started it all and all his mistakes leading up to the bursting of the Beanie Baby bubble in 2000. Starring Zach Galifianakis and Elizabeth Banks, this Apple TV+ dramedy explores the backstory of an interesting product, but not in an interesting way. To the point where you might just be better off checking out the Beanie Mania documentary from 2021.

Kristin Gore co-directed The Beanie Bubble with her husband Damian Kulash, and she also wrote the screenplay, adapted from the 2015 book The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute by Zac Bissonnette. The story jumps around the timeline of events quite a bit during its nearly two-hour runtime, and while it may seem as if Ty Warner (Galifianakis) is the main character, the film really focuses on the three women in his life. The film begins with Warner as a struggling toy salesman who loses his father (also a toymaker) and develops a friendship with his neighbor, Robbie (Banks). The two begin selling stuffed Himalayan cats which leads to the creation of Ty Inc. in 1986.

Zach Galifianakis in THE BEANIE BUBBLE

“You can make things happen here like nowhere else.”

With Robbie’s help, the two go on to grow this toy company and expand their product line at various conventions and shows. Around this time, we meet two other characters: Maya (Geraldine Viswanathan), an intern hired to work for Ty who helps open his eyes to the possibilities of his business, and Sheila (Sarah Snook), whose two daughters immediately take a liking to Ty and help him create what will later become the Beanie Babies.

Throughout the film, Ty uses and then demolishes his relationships with Robbie, Maya, and Sheila, even though all three of these women (and Sheila’s two daughters) were responsible for the successful aspects of Ty Inc. and the Beanie Babies themselves. Without any of them, this movie of course wouldn’t even exist.

“We’re giving the people what they need.”

The film’s storytelling style far more complicated than its plot. At its core, it’s about a man using the women around him to become a world icon, only to burn his bridges with them along the way. It’s about the rise and fall and the insanity in-between. The problem comes in how each section of the story, past and future, are shuffled around without a cohesive through line. It’s far more confusing and distracting than apparently intended, particularly in the wake of filmmakers pulling off the same thing so recently in Oppenheimer or some years back to the more similarly reminiscent The Big Short. It also doesn’t help that the story material here just isn’t all that easy to make exciting, not without a more audacious angle.

The cast is, thankfully, solid. Galifianakis and Banks are the two most well-known of the bunch, minus all you Succession fans, and give decent performances that stray a bit from their more comedic backgrounds. The real shining stars of the film, however, are Viswanathan and Snook, who are far more memorable and believable, both in how they handle the roles and how said roles are written for them.

The bottom line.

The Beanie Bubble is far from spectacular, and it certainly won’t capture an iota of the craze that inspired its creation. Ironically, though, a lot of that can be blamed on its own subject matter and the filmmakers’ approach to it. Compared to other solid Apple TV+ films that have come out recently, it has the middling quality of a disposable TV movie before TV movies became, well, normal movies. You know, back when Beanie Babies were a thing.

The Beanie Bubble is now playing in select theaters and is available to stream on Apple TV+. Watch the trailer here.

Images courtesy of Apple TV+. Read more articles by Tyler Carlsen here.

Tyler Carlsen

From a young age, Tyler has been amazed by filmmaking and writing. When he’s not watching movies in theaters, he also enjoys playing video games and binging one of the numerous shows he’s watching at any given moment. Working with The Young Folks was a highlight of his writing career and he is looking forward to this new adventure with In Between Drafts!

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