Directed by the lead singer of OK Go and Al Gore’s daughter, the movie tells the true story of the creation of and exploitation of the Beanie Babies craze of the 1990s.
The Beanie Bubble review
“Was it crazy to turn stuffed animals into investments?” asks Robbie Jones (played by Elizabeth Banks) as she explains that though the name Ty Warner (Zach Galifianakis) is the one associated with Beanie Babies, the toys’ success was actually the work of three women.
Robbie met Ty in 1983 when they were both poor and living in a run-down apartment complex, him with his ailing toy salesman father (who dies right when The Beanie Bubble begins) and her with her sickly, passive-aggressive boyfriend (Kurt Yaeger). Robbie was an auto mechanic and Warner was a nobody.
Then there’s Maya Kumar (Geraldine Viswanathan), a college student looking for work, who happened to catch Ty’s eye with her business acumen and charisma.
And finally, there’s single mother Sheila Harper (Sarah Snook), a lighting designer who impressed Ty with her no-nonsense attitude and her fiercely protective attitude regarding her two children. Ty badly wanted to impress her, so plied her with nice things and started redesigning his toys to meet her daughter’s specifications.
Three women, one big jerk
Of course, it didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off the wagon. Ty could only keep the illusion of his concern for the three women alive for so long. He slept with Robbie, then revealed what a selfish, shallow, racist prick he was. He restructured the company to ensure she had no financial or creative stake in it — bugged her office.
Then Ty married Sheila and began behaving like a selfish child and insisting she and her kids get plastic surgery. He also promised Maya a permanent spot in the company, then replaced her with a white guy as COO.
In short, they all learned the same lesson: Ty Warner sold happiness but dealt out misery in his private life.
The Beanie Bubble: Two wasted hours of narration and montages
My heart sank when I discovered The Beanie Bubble runs for nearly two hours. The film is wall-to-wall narration and needle drops, in case you’re terrified of silence and can’t piece together what’s happening from the extremely obvious visuals.
Kulash only occasionally brings some of the rhythm and sense of color he developed directing music videos for OK Go to this too-ordinary historical fiction. Usually, he undercuts himself, like when he introduces a dance sequence, then cuts away from its master shot for no reason.
Who wants these kinds of movies? Nobody, actually.
If Ben Affleck’s Air is the gold standard of 2023’s crop of shameless capitalist propaganda, it also relied to an unforgivable extent on montages. Tetris, the first Apple TV+ production to chase this same bizarre, invented corner of the zeitgeist — no one, after all, was asking for movies about the creation of products and the scrappy rich guys who gave them to us whether we wanted them or not — at least did its best to come up with a visual language all its own. (That didn’t save the movie, but it was something.)
This? You’ve seen all of this before. There’s nothing in The Beanie Bubble that makes this predictable story of the rise and fall of a business worth two hours of your life. Not even the combined star power of its four leads can elevate this above “fine, if you’re feeling charitable.”
The idea that this is the first thing Sarah Snook did after wrapping up Succession is just … I’m so tired, y’all. We have to reward good actors with good movies. This will be forgotten by next week.
Watch The Beanie Bubble on Apple TV+
You can watch The Beanie Bubble on Apple TV+ as of today.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper and But God Made Him A Poet: Watching John Ford in the 21st Century, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.