'The Beanie Bubble' Pops the Trend of Corporate Nostalgia Movies

Directed by Kristin Gore and Damian Kulash

Starring Zach Galifianakis, Elizabeth Banks, Sarah Snook, Geraldine Viswanathan, Tracey Bonner, Carl Clemons-Hopkins

Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

BY Rachel HoPublished Jul 27, 2023

Corporate nostalgia has been all the rage this year it seems: Nike, BlackBerry, Tetris and even spicy Cheetos have received the cinematic treatment in this calendar year alone. Here to really drive home the essence of this genre fad is perhaps one of the biggest fads of the '90s: the humble (and adorable) Beanie Baby.

On a scale of BlackBerry to Flamin' Hot, The Beanie Bubble sits closer to BlackBerry but is no where near it at the same time. Seeking to give credit to the women behind the man behind the under-stuffed, pint-sized stuffed toys, The Beanie Bubble complicates itself with filmmaking flourishes when an intriguing story is right before us.

Zach Galifianakis takes on the role of Ty Warner, the founder of Ty, Inc. who introduced the world to Beanie Babies in 1993. The Beanie Bubble follows Ty from the inception of the company with his business partner and eventual girlfriend Robbie (Elizabeth Banks, who saves this movie from being terrible) in 1986 through to the end of the Beanie Babies era in 1999. Throughout these years, we're introduced to Ty's post-Robbie romantic partner Shiela (Sarah Snook) and a college student working at Ty, Inc. named Maya (Geraldine Viswanathan).

Ty's lack of business acumen and emotional immaturity are illustrated through the experiences and eyes of these three women, pointedly underscoring how his ego accelerated the inevitable popping of the Beanie Babies bubble. To tell this story, directors Kristin Gore and Damian Kulash, along with Gore's co-writer Zac Bissonnette, decide to flip back and forth between the '90s and 1986.

Rather than creating intrigue and deepening context, the non-linear format simply creates confusion. By the time we reach the Love Actually-esque conclusion that attempts to bring everything together in a series of ah-ha! moments, the storytelling schtick feels worn out. What frustrates this aspect of the film even more is that it's very unnecessary. The story of Beanie Babies has a compelling angle that gets buried beneath some swishy filmmaking that swishes too much and becomes a distraction.

By far the most interesting aspect to the Beanie Babies story is Geraldine Viswanathan's Maya Kumar, who is based on Lina Trivedi, one of the earliest employees at Ty. Trivedi set up the company's website, which would be the first business-to-consumer site on the internet, and was also responsible for recognizing the potential eBay could have on Beanie Babies' business. She is effectively the reason toys became seen as investments. (Remember when we were all convinced that our tie-dyed Beanie Baby bear was going to be worth thousands?)

While this apparent demand for films about the origin story of products from the '80s and '90s is starting to get old before it even has a chance to be young, what The Beanie Bubble does demonstrate is that there are many names lost to history who have changed the fabric of our economy and society with little acknowledgement. It's just too bad that, instead of taking the opportunity to create a movie celebrating an innovative young mind who would go on to become a successful entrepreneur and help create regulations for online child safety, The Beanie Bubble becomes yet another movie giving space to the flaws of a tax-evading billionaire.
(Apple TV+)

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