So many toys turn out to be something of a fad that in retrospect it is hard to believe what the appeal of was over what was ultimately cheap tat. Cabbage patch dolls, a doll so empty headed and vacant eyed that any movie adaptation would have Amanda Holden as a shoe in for the role. were a craze that saw parents fighting in the aisles to get them with all the dignity of Kim Kardashian’s sex tape. But the popularity of flash in the pan toys goes back years and The Beanie Bubble looks at the craze for beanie babies the brainchild and frankly genius idea of Ty Warner (Zach Galifianakis) to under stuff soft toys making the flexible, cuddly and huggable and then limiting the number available which were sold only through Mom & Dad stores rather than the big chain stores which served to drive demand. Having started his egotistically self named company ‘Ty’ in 1983 he would hit pay dirt in 1993 with the introduction of the beanie baby.
But as much of a fall and rise of the company story this is its more about a venal man with a fragile ego stomping over the three women pivotal to the success of his company. The first is Robbie Jones (ad always good Elizabeth Banks) a neighbour he meets, befriends and enlists and whose smart ideas lift the company into its initial success. Then there’s Maya Kumar ( an excellent Geraldine Viswanathan) a teenager whose parents are determined that she become a Dr but who takes a job with the company and proves her worth with collating information on the newly introduced online community and pioneers the sales through analysis of the data, using chatrooms and a website that drives the company’s success further. And then finally there’s Sheila Harper (Sarah Snook) a divorced single mum with two young girls who Ty begins dating but uses the girls enthusiasms for his product as research which inspire the beanie baby that proved hugely popular.
Initially Ty has moments of being a decent person especially to the step daughters and there’s a nice scene where the three of them choreograph a dance routine to Ready for the World’s hit song ‘Oh Sheila’ (one of many great tracks on the score that also includes Supergrass and INXS and set the era) before he proposes to Sheila, But the affection for him doesn’t last long because Ty is an insensitive, egotistical narcissist in a role that Galifianakis plays so well even if it is the only character he seems to play whether it be in The Hangover or Between the Ferns.
This is the latest in a line of recent films about successful products ( ‘Air’ being the best of the recent films) but like the products being ‘understuffed’ the exploration of why Ty was this way seemingly determined to sue or destroy collectors or anyone capitalizing on the toys success taking umbrage at the collectors ‘investing in the scarcity if the toy and callously casting aside the three women when he thinks they’re impinging on his success, not paying them what he should be paying them for their part in the company’s success.
Essentially a rise and fall story it hops back and fore in time to no great effect and is perhaps a little overlong but the cast are all uniformly excellent in their respective roles and all irreplaceable to the company which Ty, to his detriment, never recognises taking them all for granted. It’s a film that firmly roots for the women and rightly so because ultimately Ty is a far from likeable person and there’s a satisfaction in seeing his downfall against the success of the three women as outlined in those ‘where are they know’ captions that end so many of these true story films. Based on The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute by Zac Bissonette is a very entertaining yet cautionary tale that could well be a fore runner to any Elon Musk and Twitter film that can’t be far off.
related feature: What’s the true story behind Elizabeth Banks film ,’Cocaine Bear’?
Here’s The Beanie Bubble trailer…..
Releasing to Cinemas & Apple TV+ on 28th July