The Beanie Bubble

Movie Review: The Beanie Bubble

If you were alive in the 90s, there’s very little chance that you don’t remember Beanie Babies, the adorable stuffed toys that inexplicably began to be viewed as commodities to be hoarded and sold for large profits (a set of 5 bears referred to as Large Wallace and His Squad is said to have gone for $600,000). How did these smooshy little collectibles wind up setting off a national frenzy? In The Beanie Bubble, writer Zac Bissonnette, writer / director Kristin Gore (Futurama), and director Damian Kulash (lead singer of the viral hitmaking band OK Go) aim to show us.

While the company may be named after him, Ty Warner (Zach Galifianakis) had much less to do with the creation of Beanie Babies than he would have most people believe, at least according to this movie. Instead, much of the credit belongs with company co-founder and sometimes lover Robbie (Elizabeth Banks), employee Maya (Geraldine Viswanathan), and ex-fiancée Sheila (Sarah Snook), whose daughters Maren (Delaney Quinn) and Ava (Madison Johnson) allegedly inspired the toys in the first place.

The movie jumps back and forth in time as each of the three women relay their stories to us and explain exactly how they contributed to Ty’s success. Initially it’s easy to see why as the charmingly whimsical man draws them into his orbit, but as his darker impulses gradually emerge, each finds themselves either too much in love with the man or their aspirations to move on. This leads to a somewhat disjointed story structure, with a first half that is stuffed full of cheery nostalgia and a second that turns darker and more dramatic. The very nature of the subject matter means that the filmmakers avoid getting too serious, but this leads to a film that feels uncertain about whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama.

It’s never boring however, with the cast doing great work as usual, and Viswanathan in particular leaving an impression. Everything looks nicely polished, and having perhaps picked up a thing or two directing videos for his band, Kulash and Gore do pull off more than a few handsome shots, with the slow-motion Beanie Baby tractor-trailer crash at the beginning especially feeling like something that would fit in an OK Go clip. I can’t comment as to the veracity of the claims put forward by this film, but they will certainly make you look at the toys in a new light, and while your memories of watching The Beanie Bubble might be as ethereal as the trend itself, it’s also just as fun while it lasts. ★★★

rated r for language.

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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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