Reviewed By Freda Cooper
If you ever obsessed over a TV series as a kid, then you’ll have more than a little sympathy for James (Kyle Mooney) in Brigsby Bear.
He’s grown up with Brigsby Bear Adventures, a weekly show about a loveable teddy in outer space, part fun, part education. He knows every plot line down to the minutest detail, can recite chunks of dialogue and his bedroom is full of Brigsby memorabilia. Yet it’s hard to work out why he’s so fascinated. The show is so primitive, it looks home made. That’s because it is. And James is 27.
The truth of his life with his parents, cut off from the dangerous outside world, is darker than he could ever imagine. They kidnapped him when he was a baby and he’s lived with them ever since. Which means that his favourite show is literally unique in that he’s the one and only viewer and, as he discovers when he’s rescued and encounters the real world for the first time, nobody has ever heard of his hero.
And that’s the set up for Dave McCary’s debut as a director, a quirky but irresistibly charming comedy that concentrates on James finding his feet in his new world. Understanding that there’ll be no more episodes of Brigsby Bear is hard enough, but understanding what people are saying to him is quite another. Re-united with his parents, he discovers he has a teenage sister and the way she and her friends speak is completely baffling. The only way James can find some personal balance is to try to get Brigsby out of his system. By making a movie about him, the last episode as it were.
Years of confinement have left him emotionally stunted, naïve in the extreme and adrift in a strange world. He tries to speak like the teenagers around him: everything is “dope as shit” but he can’t get the intonation right and it sounds artificial. Rather like Jeff Bridges efforts to speak English in John Carpenter’s Starman (1984). But it also adds up to an impressive performance from the sympathetically nerdy Kyle Mooney.
Despite its dark undercurrent, this is a film full of charm and no little humour, although perhaps not quite as many laughs as you might expect. While Mooney’s fish out of water turn generates much of it, the top banana is Greg Kinnear as a kind hearted actor who’s also a frustrated actor and eventually plays a key role in the film about Brigsby. He’s also responsible for a priceless gag aimed at James’ “father”, who happens to be played by Mark Hamill. To reveal more would spoil it.
Brigsby Bear ends up being a quirky take on the coming of age story, one with a central character who emerges as resilient and creative, an unconventional survivor with courage and the ability to inspire loyalty from his new friends and family. The child like quality of Brigsby on TV may have sinister origins, but it makes the transition into an unusual, warm and eminently likeable film.
Director: Dave McCary
Writers: Kevin Costello, Kyle Mooney
Stars: Kyle Mooney, Mark Hamill, Jane Adams, Greg Kinnear and Ryan Simpkins.
Brigsby Bear is out on the 8th of December.