“The Beanie Bubble” is a poorly told startup story

Zach Galifianakis weak link in superficial look at stuffed animal craze

The Beanie Bubble
Where: In theatres, Apple TV
What: Movie, 110 mins.
When: Now
Genre: Drama
Rating: NNN (out of 5)
Why you should watch: If your hunger for entrepreneur stories is truly insatiable.

MATT JOHNSON’S recent Blackberry set the bar very high for films that get inside the chaotic world of startup businesses, and Apple TV’s new Zach Galifianakis-fronted The Beanie Bubble doesn’t come close to reaching it.

It’s the story of toy hustler Ty Warner (Galifianakis) and the three women whose largely uncredited and insufficiently compensated work was essential in creating the Beanie Babies of the ’90s, the stuffed animal craze that became a billion-dollar business that included a never-seen-before, massive online resale market.

Unfortunately, the film feels like a Hallmark movie without the Christmas trees. Characters are superficial with their motivations barely hinted at. Galifianakis’s Ty Walker is just so annoying, unpleasant and self-absorbed that only in a Hollywood movie would anyone — suitors, employees, investors — be interested in him.

Succession’s Sarah Snook does her best as Walker’s reluctant wife Sheila, but their “courtship” scenes are so corny that the only thing missing is the gauze filter on the camera lens. Their happy times seem cast in plastic and the relationship never credible.

Elisabeth Banks and Geraldine Viswanathan also give solid performances as Beanie women whose hard work and ideas Walker freely exploited, but the entire conflict is so tidy and bloodless, the story is more inevitable than compelling.

It’s the kind of workplace drama that, once upon a time, might have starred Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda and others. But those films managed to have what was then called “sass,” with humour and winks to the audience to assure viewers they weren’t blind to the exploitation.

Injustices routinely pile up on the female characters with the efficiency of checking a box — their frustration and responses often only hinted at.

From the characters to the story itself, The Beanie Bubble never gets beyond superficial.