Director: Dave McCary
Starring: Kyle Mooney, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear
Review Author: Tony
There are many moments in Dave McCary’s Brigsby Bear where I was prepared for it to take a sinister turn, thankfully each time I was delighted to be proven wrong. I said earlier this year Logan Lucky was good-natured filmmaking at its finest, well Brigsby Bear is charming and endearing filmmaking at its finest. Its sincere, charming, funny, and best of all, creative. It’s an indie film with some seriously big-name writers behind it such as the Lonely Island, Chris Miller and Phil Lord (The Lego Movie).
Opening up to what appears to be a post-apocalyptic setting, James is a young man living a sheltered life in a bunker with his parents. James’ day consists of doing his chores, eating with his family and watching his favourite (only) show Brigsby Bear, followed by online chat rooms dedicated to discussing Brigsby. Brigsby is the titular anthropomorphic bear of an 80’s looking tv show which follows his intergalactic adventures while also giving life advice to the viewer. Sheltered due to tales of toxic air, James soon finds his life turned upside down when it’s revealed he has been kept in captivity and the air is clear and the world isn’t a wasteland. Even worse for James is that Brigsby has solely been made for him by his captors. Discovering that everything has been a lie and being reunited with his real parents, James has one thing on his mind. Finish Brigsby’s story.
The opening act has a similar concept to Dogtooth, albeit a far more lighthearted and comedic approach to the subject matter. However, this all takes place within the first 20 minutes of the movie. The rest of the film deals with the aftermath of these events and James’ adjustment. Although the film flirts with the darker side of the subject matter it never goes down that path due to James’ innocence and his devotion to Brigsby. If the first act can be compared to Dogtooth than the remainder of the film is similar to the film Be Kind Rewind.
Kyle Mooney is superb as the leading man, James. He approaches the role with an eccentric charm and earnestness as they subvert expectations of James being overwhelmed by recent revelations. Instead, James is a fanboy, not a victim. He is too innocent to comprehend the gravity of his situation but he never comes across as ignorant. Nope, James lives and breathes Brigsby and there’s no reason for him to stop now. Anyone who is apart of a fandom will instantly relate to James and admire his tenacity and optimistic outlook and will be rooting for him the whole film.
There are brief moments of conflict as James’ real parents try to connect with him and view his obsession with Brigsby as a side effect of brainwashing. It’s a valid reasoning and shows that while they have James’ best interests at heart they approach it pretty terribly. The circle of friends James develops is a breath of fresh air as they support him and view him as one of them and not a basket case who needs to be fixed. In fact, for a small film, it covers a vast range of themes in its short run time.
For a film I knew so little about, it has truly taken me by surprise and yet again put my top 10 films of 2017 into a shambles. A superb debut for Dave McCrary and a true showcase of Kyle Mooney’s talents, Brigsby Bear is the most sincere and creative film of 2017.
Rating: 4.5 / 5 Guinness