- The Beanie Bubble focuses on the flaws of Beanie Baby co-founder Ty Warner and how they led to the downfall of the company.
- The film highlights the female characters, played by Sarah Snook, Elizabeth Banks, and Geraldine Viswanathan, and their success despite Warner's mistreatment.
- The core message of the film is to treat people with dignity and give them the salary they deserve, making it a refreshing take on the biopic genre.
Editor's note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the [series/movie/etc] being covered here wouldn't exist.
The Beanie Bubble has a firm handle on the story it wants to tell and executes that vision well. Kristin Gore (Accidental Love) and Damian Kulash's (Okay Go: Obsession) direction is a great fit for the cast of comedic actors. The script, penned by Gore and Zac Bissonnette focuses on the women around the infamous Beanie Baby co-founder Ty Warner, portrayed by Zach Galifianakis. Succession's Sarah Snook, Elizabeth Banks, and Geraldine Viswanathan (Miracle Workers), who are the key to the film's success, do not disappoint.
In the late 1980s, Ty (Galifianakis) teams up with his friend Robbie (Banks) to start a small toy business selling stuffed cats. Little did they know it would lead to the worldwide phenomenon of Beanie Babies. But before the company graduates from tens of thousands to millions of customers, Ty selfishly cuts Robbie out of significant decisions, leading her to quit. A few weeks later, Ty hires a new receptionist, Maya (Viswanathan). She quickly rises up the company's ranks, but without any financial compensation. While she is revolutionizing the way business interfaces with the internet, Ty has found a new love in Sheila (Snook). Eventually, all the women in Ty’s life are fed up with his nonsense and realize they are better off without him.
It seems we can’t go a month without a biopic surrounding recent history, and The Beanie Bubble is no different. Whether it's about WeWork, Flamin' Hot Cheetos, or Blackberry’s rise and downfall, there seems to be no end to this trend. What’s even more revealing is that many of these projects are going straight to streaming. It begs the question: Is there a huge appetite for these kinds of films, or is it just a safe play in the very tenuous world of movies? The Beanie Bubble is certainly safe in its topic, but what sets it apart is the characters it chooses to highlight.
Galifianakis is quite entertaining as the brainchild behind Beanie Babies, but the film has no interest in Ty Warner's ideas or his success. Instead, it chooses to focus on his flaws and how those flaws not only lead to the downfall of the company, but could have been easily avoided had he treated his female coworkers with more respect. The Beanie Bubble is not about Warner — it's about the Snook, Banks, and Viswanathan's characters. Snook's Sheila has the most indirect influence on the business, but her daughter has a very direct impact on a line of Beanie Babies. The film does a good job of setting the audience up to think nothing can go wrong as a result of that distance and when it pulls the rug from underneath us, it gives great insight into Warner’s mindset while still focusing on Sheila.
Viswanathan is all business, but the script leaves her out to dry with a few exposition dumps about the internet. Her performance, however, is filled with life and optimism that comes at a steep price for Maya. Banks lives in the middle. Her character's relationship with Warner starts off as business, but it leads to a volatile, albeit romantic, relationship. The Beanie Bubble makes you think you're watching a classic biopic about a man's rise to fame and the women who helped him get there. But in fact, it's about three women who, in spite of their boss or partner, become giants in their field and eventually leave him in the dust — in their careers and their happiness.
The Beanie Bubble does not break new ground, but it doesn't overstay its welcome in familiar territory either. The core of Gore and Bissonnette’s script is simply to treat people with the dignity, and give them the salary they deserve. It is rarely preachy, and the message is a timeless one. Every performance has something to offer and though the filmmaking is not very ambitious, it is well suited for the plot and tone. The Beanie Bubble isn’t fan service for lovers of the classic toy, but it is a refreshing take on the biopic.
The Beanie Bubble is now in theaters and streaming on Apple TV+. The film is 110 minutes long and rated R for language.