Brigsby Bear deals with themes of family, friendship, the loss of innocence, love, the indelible impact of pop culture, nostalgia, and the power of movies to heal and transform. This inventive and quirky independent film comes from debut feature filmmaker Dave McCary (better known as a writer on SNL),
James (Kyle Mooney) has led a rather isolated life, raised by his parents in a sheltered bunker under the care of his two strange and overprotective parents (Star Wars’ Mark Hamill and Jane Adams). While unable to leave due to the deathly air outside, he has become obsessed with watching VHS tapes of Brigsby Bear, an animated children’s television show featuring the heroic titular bear who regularly saved the universe while dispensing valuable moral lessons.
But then his world comes crashing down around him as he realises that his life has been a big lie. He was kidnapped as a child and raised by his kidnappers. Rescued by the FBI and brought back into the real world and reunited with his real family James finds it hard to adjust. But through making his own movie reproducing the adventures of Brigsby Bear, with the unlikely help of some new friends, he begins to reconnect with the world and those closest to him and gain closure for his traumatic past.
Written by Mooney and his long-time friend and collaborator Kevin Costello, the film is not without its peculiar charms, offbeat humour, and plenty of warmth and empathy for its characters.
As the thirty-something naïve man-child trying to adjust to an unfamiliar world, Mooney himself makes for a likeable lead character. The solid supporting cast includes Greg Kinnear as Vogel, a sympathetic detective; Claire Danes as a psychologist; Ryan Simpkins as James’ younger sister Aubrey; and Michaela Watkins and Matt Walsh as James’ real parents who are at a loss at how to communicate with their son. Hamill brings a sympathetic touch to his performance.
McCary maintains the bittersweet tone throughout, and he tempers the darker plot device that opens the film with some genuine empathy and moments of unexpected humour. The recreation of the B-grade TV show Brigsby Bear is also something of a treat and will have a nostalgic appeal for those who grew up in the 70s watching children’s television shows like H R Pufnstuf, and those other shows created by Sid and Marty Krofft.
Director: Dave McCary
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Kyle Mooney, Mark Hamill
Release Date: 26 October 2017
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television