Movie Review: “Brigsby Bear” (PG-13)
During Comic-Con 2017 in San Diego, Sony Pictures Classics hosted a “Brigsby Bear” presentation. Aside from an amusing Q&A with the cast and crew, Comic-Con attendees were also treated to the first 12 minutes of the film. As fate would have it, I had already seen the movie in its entirety back in January at Sundance. And in fact, “Brigsby Bear” sat alongside “Mudbound,” “Ghost Story,” “The Big Sick,” “Patti Cake$,” and “To the Bone” as one of my favorite movies at the festival. Watching the first 12 minutes again reminded me how much I adore this movie, and while at the surface this might seem like an odd film to showcase at Comic-Con, it makes more sense then you think. When you see “Brigsby Bear,” you’ll understand why.
If “Room” and “The Truman Show” had been re-envisioned by the gloriously goofy Lonely Island crew (“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping”), it might look a little something like this surprisingly endearing, slightly eccentric, and altogether likable movie. Cowritten and starring SNL player Kyle Mooney, this sweet-natured and laugh-out-loud funny comedy will be instantly relatable to film lovers and those who use art of any kind to help navigate through that unpredictable thing called life.
James (Mooney) has lived a most unique existence. Since early childhood, he’s been confined to very contained, off-the-grid living quarters by his eccentric parents (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams). With very little human interaction, James spends the majority of his time watching and dissecting a children’s show called “Brigsby Bear,” that is until a startling revelation opens James’ childlike eyes to a world he never knew existed.
What an unexpected joy “Brigsby Bear” is, and one of the many things I so greatly enjoyed about it was its refusal to include a villain. Sure, there’s a bit of contention in the film at the hands of a couple of different characters, but there’s no obvious dastardly antagonist out to stop James from reaching his end goal, which in the case of this film is to put together a feature-length adaptation of “Brigsby Bear” with the help of some unlikely new friends.
Kyle Mooney is oddly appealing here as the clueless James. His man-child demeanor is both charming and adorable, and it’s a ton of fun watching James try to grasp contemporary teen lingo and then attempt to recite said lingo by putting his own weird spin on it. James is sort of like a frat-boy version of Jeff Bridges’ character from “Starman.”
While this is essentially Mooney’s show, the SNL funnyman is assisted by an equally appealing supporting cast, most notably an undeniably likable Greg Kinnear as a man of the law with aspirations of becoming an actor and Luke Skywalker himself as James’ mysterious father.
As previously stated, a sizable portion of “Brigsby Bear” finds a committed James working hard with his newfound friends to turn his favorite (and only) TV show into a feature-length movie. If you’ve ever dabbled in filmmaking, you’re more than likely to find a lot of this stuff instantly relatable. In fact, the whole filmmaking scenario as presented in “Brigsby Bear” is smile-inducing in a big way.
For all its goofy, Lonely Island-infused humor and slapstick hijinks, though, it should be noted that “Brigsby Bear” has a ton of heart. This is a movie about family, friendship, and moving forward from life-altering situations. It’s also quite the clever look at the art of filmmaking itself. This little gem is in limited release, but if it’s playing in your neck of the woods, see it!