Sundance 2017 Movie Review: "Brigsby Bear"“Brigsby Bear”

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 like the surprisingly endearing and altogether likable “Brigsby Bear.” Co-written by and starring “Saturday Night Live” player Kyle Mooney, this sweet and laugh-out-loud funny movie will be instantly relatable to film lovers and to those who use art of any kind to deal with the pressures of real life. In “Brigsby Bear,” Mooney plays James, a man who’s lived a sheltered life, to say the least. With very little warning, James’ eyes are suddenly opened to a world he never knew existed, and through the power of his love for a children’s show called “Brigsby Bear,” this confused individual attempts to move on with his life the only way he knows how. For all its goofy, “The Lonely Island”-infused humor and slapstick hijinks, 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.

James (Mooney) has lived a most unique life. Since early childhood, he’s been confined to very contained, off-the-grid living quarters by his eccentric parents. 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 typical villain. Sure, there’s a bit of contention in the film, but there’s no obvious dastardly antagonist out to stop James from reaching his end goal, which is to put together a feature-length big-screen adaptation of “Brigsby Bear” with the help of some new friends.

Kyle Mooney is dryly appealing here. His manchild demeanor is both charming and adorable. It’s a ton of fun watching him try to grasp teen lingo and then attempt to recite said lingo with his own odd spin. James is sort of like a frat-boy version of the Jeff Bridges character from “Starman.”

While this is essentially Mooney’s show, the SNL funnyman gets a great assist from an equally appealing suppporting cast, most notably an undeniably likable Greg Kinnear as a man of the law with aspirations of becoming an actor and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker himself) as James’ mysterious father figure.

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 or art of any kind, you’ll find this stuff very relatable. In fact, the whole filmmaking scenario as presented in “Brigsby Bear” is smile-inducing in a big way.

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.

Fun fact: A great deal of “Brigsby Bear” what shot right here in our very own breathtaking state of Utah.

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