BRIGSBY BEAR Film Review: Kyle Mooney Shows the Healing Power of Fandom with this Indie Comedy

brigsby bear

Sony Pictures Classics

Your typical indie comedy will give you honey-colored hues, beautiful shots of nature, and humorously deadpan conversations over heartfelt tension. BRIGSBY BEAR starring and co-written by Saturday Night Live performer Kyle Mooney will give audiences all that and more with an unexpected twist fifteen minutes in that drives the emotional current for the remainder of film.

The logline for the film states: A sheltered man-child (Mooney) attempts to make a movie adaptation of his favorite kids’ show. This is, in fact, the core of the story but it’s leaving out something big and while many other reviews out there have given this away, I personally think the movie is better not knowing. I went into the theater knowing only the logline and the people behind the project, and that’s how it should be. We are quickly introduced to Mooney as James, a young man obsessed with the children’s series Brigsby Bear. The show-within-the-film has a catchy theme song reminiscent of Disney’s Gummi Bears cartoon from the 80s and follows the titular bear on his space adventures with the Smile sisters, Arielle and Nina, who have powers of their own, against the evil Sunsnatcher. James’ room is filled with VHS tapes of every episode of the series, which he spends his time rewatching relentlessly and talking with people online, analyzing the show. As an audience, you quickly get the sense that something in this world is not right. James and the people he lives with are awkward and definitely have their own way of doing things, and James has clearly had no access to the outside world.

An incident leads James into the rest of the world where he finds out that there are no more episodes of Brigsby Bear, ending the series on a cliffhanger with no resolution for James or Brigsby and the Sunsnatcher. As James struggles to settle into a new environment, his obsession with the show takes a turn as he decides he can make a movie to finish the story. His passion is initially viewed as a problem, but as with any heartwarming story, it is this same passion that also brings everyone together.

brigsby bear 3Sony Pictures Classics

The only person in the world as big a fan as James is Mark Hamill’s character, Ted, who happily listens to every theory James comes up with for how Brigsby will ultimately defeat his nemesis. The role is fantastic for Hamill, who is able to show off his voice-work in the movie and plays into the film’s theme of fandom bringing people together.

brigsby bear 4Sony Pictures Classics

Greg Kinnear as a local detective is equally awesome as a wannabe actor who takes a part in James’s project and ultimately becomes as big a fan of the show as his writer-director. He’s not alone. As more and more people become aware of the cult series, they can’t help but want to participate in and support James’s vision. James builds a large family of friends, that includes both Kinnear’s character Det. Vogel and local high schooler Spencer, played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr.

brigsby bear 2Sony Pictures Classics

In addition to the themes of fandom and what it means to be a family, there’s also the issue of dealing with a child with a developmental disorder and the strain that puts on those around them. James is sheltered and has unknowingly been through a great deal in his life. In the film, his love of Brigsby Bear is a coping mechanism for what he has gone through, but James’ socially awkward behavior and obsession reminded me of the many children I have interacted with who are on the spectrum. Seeing his parents struggle and hurt over behavior in their child that they cannot change, and learning to accept that, is both heartbreaking and warming.

Director Dave McCary will surely have a fantastic career moving forward as his ability to pace the humor and emotional beats kept what easily could’ve been a farce grounded the entire film. From the moment the credits started until the film ended, I found myself smiling. It’s rare that I leave a theater feeling truly surprised anymore, yet by keeping the first act surprise in the dark and letting the waves of emotion that followed hit that’s exactly what happened. The premise may sound absurd, however, the end result is both hilarious and poignant.

TB-TV-Grade-A-Rated:  PG-13
Running time: 97 minutes

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Emily is a writer and film/television obsessor. If desired, Emily will talk to you at potentially-annoying-length about topics such as why soap operas are underrated, the current amazing state of underground comedy, and how she avoids everything zombie-related because most of them do not chew with their mouths closed.
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmilyJwrites
Keep up with all of Emily’s reviews here.

 | Staff Writer
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Still quiet

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