The Beanie Bubble review: Bubble bursts for corporate dramas

Telling the story behind the rise of fall of Ty's Beanie Babies, this new Apple TV+ is the latest movie about a boardroom bust up

Zach Galifianakis in The Beanie Bubble. (Apple TV+)
Zach Galifianakis in The Beanie Bubble. (Apple TV+)
  • 🎞️ When is The Beanie Bubble out: On Apple TV+ from Friday, 28 July

  • ⭐️ Our rating: 2/5

  • 🎭 Who's in it? Zach Galifianakis, Elizabeth Banks, Sarah Snook, Geraldine Viswanathan, Tracey Bonner

  • 👍 What we liked: Great performances, especially from Galifianakis and Banks.

  • 👎 What we didn't: Yo-yo timelines are irritating and distracting.

  • 📖 What's it about? In the mid-90s Beanie Babies dominated the toy market making the under-stuffed plush animals highly-valued collectors’ items. The Ty company, headed by toy salesman Ty Warner, became a runaway success but the efforts of three women were crucial in its meteoric rise. And when Warner refuses to acknowledge their contribution, they play an equally important part in its collapse.

  • ⏱️ How long is it? 1 hour 50 minutes

In a year when the stories behind commercial products have provided some of cinema’s most compelling tales, Ben Affleck's Nike trainer movie Air set the bar incredibly high and nothing — not even Apple TV+’s Tetris — has come close.

Read more: The amazing true story behind Tetris

And, even though the streamer’s latest, The Beanie Bubble, returns to similar territory, it struggles to get close to its predecessors. The story of how three women had their efforts in building the company ignored by its figurehead simply doesn’t have the heft or the humour to take it into the same league.

Watch a trailer for The Beanie Bubble

While we witness how Beanie Babies became not just toys but collectors’ items worth thousands – a HGV packed with them crashes on the highway, causing chaos as motorists fight to get their hands on its cargo – we also watch as the trio devote their energies and talents to both the company and Ty Warner (Zach Galifianakis) himself, only to be pushed abruptly aside.

Read more: How the origin movie swallowed Hollywood (The Telegraph, 8 in read)

There’s Robbie (Elizabeth Banks), a saleswoman with an astute business brain, using her job to escape a dead-end life. Sheila (Sarah Snook) is a designer, with two smart young daughters who are the perfect test market for the range. And Maya (Geraldine Viswanathan) arrives at the company while still at school, but has an unerring eye for the “next big thing”.

Zach Galifianakis and Geraldine Viswanathan in The Beanie Bubble. (Apple TV+)
Zach Galifianakis and Geraldine Viswanathan in The Beanie Bubble. (Apple TV+)

Their stories run in parallel, with the individual narratives told from a subjective viewpoint. But the constantly yo-yoing timelines quickly become an irritating distraction and captions to denote the actual years aren’t enough to allay the frustration.

The time-hopping is so prevalent that it comes perilously close to up-ending the story as a whole. It’s only when the women’s experiences overlap that the technique starts to make sense, but by then it’s almost too late.

Read more: Rave reviews for Ben Affleck's Air

The film’s four main players are its biggest asset, with a dialled-down Galifianakis almost unrecognisable without his trademark beard. His Ty is part creative genius, part over-grown spoilt child.

Elizabeth Banks and Zach Galifianakis in The Beanie Bubble. (Apple TV+)
Elizabeth Banks and Zach Galifianakis in The Beanie Bubble. (Apple TV+)

Banks returns to in front of the camera after Cocaine Bear as the first and most ambitious of his partners, who throws herself wholeheartedly into everything that she does. And that includes taking her revenge when it becomes clear she’s been hung out to dry.

What other critics thought of The Beanie Bubble

Total Film: Zach Galifianakis transfixes in a playful tale that spills the beans (2 min read)

IndieWire: Zach Galifianakis Leads a Modest Comedy About History’s Biggest Toy Craze (8 min read)

Variety: A Flamboyant if Understuffed Satire of the ’90s Plush Toy Phenom (4 min read)

A different approach to a familiar corporate story, a strong cast and a sense of irony — “There are parts of the truth you can’t make up. The rest we did.” says the opening caption — isn’t enough to prevent The Beanie Bubble nearly spiralling out of control, Ty-style.

Affleck and co can rest comfortably on their laurels.

The Beanie Bubble is on Apple TV+ from 28 July.