Anyone who was a kid or a parent in the 90s will be familiar with Beanie Babies. The plush toys, which were available in the guise of many different animals, were a global sensation and became highly collectable thanks to the limited number manufactured for each variety. While the brand reached its peak in the 90s, Beanie Babies are still available today and now you can watch the story behind the phenomenon in new film ‘The Beanie Bubble’. Focusing on Ty Warner (Zach Galifianakis), the toy salesman who invented Beanie Babies, the film explores the relationship he had with three women – Robbie (Elizabeth Banks), Sheila (Sarah Snook) and Maya (Geraldine Viswanathan) – who were instrumental in the global success of the toys.
It’s becoming increasingly popular for film-makers to tell the back story behind brands and I have to admit that when I heard about ‘The Beanie Bubble’, my first instinct was to wonder if this was a story that really needed telling. Husband and wife team Kristin Gore and OK Go’s Damian Kulash direct the film with Gore having written the screenplay with Zac Bissonnette, whose book ‘The Great Beanie Baby Bubble’ is the source material for the film. To their credit, Gore and Kulash manage to inject a fairly zippy pace and some flashy editing into the film, which does distract from the rather thin and dare I say underwhelming story.
Rather than telling the story from the perspective of Ty, the film-makers choose to showcase the viewpoints of the three women in his life. These women are all based on actual people but for the purposes of the film have been given different names and fictionalised. Over the course of the film we learn about Robbie, the woman who was working by Ty’s side since the 80s and helped him scale and grow the Beanie Babies business. There’s also Sheila, a woman whose children were instrumental in the design of the Beanie Babies and who later becomes romantically involved with Ty, and Maya, one of Ty’s employees who helps him launch the business online and increase sales.
The film’s cast is excellent with Geraldine Viswanathan and Sarah Snook in particular standing out. That being said, there’s only so much they can do with the material and sadly that material isn’t all that interesting. Ty is somewhat portrayed as a bit of a villain but not enough to make you want to invest in this near two-hour film. Elizabeth Banks continues to make questionable choices in terms of the roles she takes on and she’s yet to find something that truly showcases what she can do. As Robbie she’s perfectly fine but the role is incredibly underwritten and lacks any real depth.
‘The Beanie Bubble’ is perfectly watchable but it’s not particularly compelling. This feels like a story that really didn’t need telling and no amount of dramatizing makes it feel particularly necessary. Beanie Babies are something that many people feel a degree of genuine warmth towards either due to having loved them themselves or had kids who did, but the story behind their rise and fall is sadly not that interesting. The stellar cast does the best they can but ‘The Beanie Bubble’ is a hit-and-miss affair that’s more miss than anything else.
Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Elizabeth Banks, Sarah Snook, Geraldine Viswanathan Directors: Kristin Gore and Damian Kulash Writers: Kristin Gore and Zac Bissonnette Certificate: 15 Duration: 110 mins Released by: Apple TV+ Release date: 28th July 2023