Brigsby Bear, 2017.
Directed by Dave McCary.
Starring Kyle Mooney, Mark Hamill, Jane Adams, Beck Bennett, Claire Danes, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Greg Kinnear, Kate Lyn Sheil, Ryan Simpkins, Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins, and Andy Samberg.
James (Kyle Mooney) adores the TV show Brigsby Bear, a ramshackle slice of 80s children’s entertainment about which he has created online forums upon which to discuss his shelves and shelves of archived VHS tapes. He lives a quiet life with his father (Mark Hamill) and mother (Jane Adams), until one day his world is irreparably changed by a revelation that forces him to view the world in a completely different way.
Reviewing Dave McCary’s ode to friendship and filmmaking is a tricky ordeal, because the less you know about this wonderful little oddity, the better.
It’s tough in today’s cinematic landscape to eek out anything approaching original, but Brigsby Bear is one of those rare gems which unfolds in a way that never allows you to second guess it. Everything about the film feels likeably skewwhiff, and it’s made in such a loving fashion, replicating the adoration that its protagonist feels for Brigsby.
At its heart is a journey of awakening, not only the obvious one that Mooney’s character undertakes, but each person that he comes into contact with experiences an arc of development, all of which pay of handsomely in a surprisingly moving final act.
As James, Mooney is a requisitely awkward presence to try and warm to, but as his world changes you embrace and understand his ticks in the same way that his family have to. As his father, Hamill is fantastic, putting to great use his career as an animated voice over artist to bring Brigsby to life, but it’s later in the film when his mask has been stripped away where he makes maximum impact with his limited screentime.
Brigsby Bear succeeds because of its overriding message of hope, which never gets near to descending into mawkishness. There’s a blunt reality to a story that could easily have manifested as geeky wish-fulfillment nonsense, but McCary ensures that the stakes carry weight for every character.
There’s a lot of fun to be had in the recreation of the Brigsby Bear TV show, which comes across as a bastardisation of Teletubbies, funnelled through an episode of The Mighty Boosh, and the role it plays in tying things together at the end is a triumph.
What starts as a curiosity, one from which you’re probably expecting a hatful of laughs, especially considering it’s co-produced by The Lonely Island (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping), as well as Phil Lord and Chris Miller, soon becomes melancholy wrapped in quirk. The comedy you wanted is subtle, the moving parable you get unexpected.
A small movie, full of small moments, all of which have an impact as big as the smile on your face. Paddington isn’t the only bear worth checking out this Christmas.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★