There are two or three or possibly four laughs in Judd Apatow’s extremely long Netflix comedy about movie celebrity and the pandemic, which features a range of American and British talent. The troubled cast members of a hugely successful action franchise called Cliff Beasts are persuaded to reunite for Cliff Beasts 6: to beat the virus they’ll all have to bubble up for a three-month shoot in a huge English country hotel where greenscreen facilities can be erected to fabricate the real world outside.
These comprise insecure Carol (Karen Gillan), haughty diva Lauren (Leslie Mann), bleary veteran Dustin (David Duchovny), spiritual wellness enthusiast Sean (Keegan-Michael Key), TikTok superstar Krystal (Iris Apatow), light relief Howie (Guz Khan) and borderline-crazy Dieter (Pedro Pascal). They have to be kept in line by their tightlipped Brit producer (Peter Serafinowicz) and visionary director Darren (Fred Armisen).
Periodically, there are some nice gags about the heartless world of showbusiness; Carol’s agent (played by Rob Delaney) tells her that the industry always blames the stars for underperforming movies. “Judi Dench fucked Cats!” Kate McKinnon is on amusingly icy form as the chillingly unsympathetic studio head. There are also some nicely surreal scenes showing how very easy it is to fake an exterior location digitally: the cast free-climb a high mountain, but tired and bored, they start petulantly floating away on their invisible wires.
This could have been a good premise, but the basic idea of the pandemic and bubbling up itself now feels spurious and dated, and there just aren’t enough funny lines to carry this film through its punishing 126-minute running time.