Film Review by Kam Williams
Freed Kidnap Victim Adjusts to Reality in Touching Character Study
Brigsby Bear revolves around an age-old premise that’s tough to establish and maintain convincingly, namely, the plight of a sheltered protagonist blissfully unaware of reality. Four films come quickly to mind which succeeded at plausibly presenting just such a plotline.
In Room (2015), we witnessed a little boy being imprisoned with his mother in a shed by the rapist who’d fathered him. In Life Is Beautiful (1997), we found a concentration camp internee doing his best to shield his young son from the horrors of the Holocaust.
In Being There (!979), Peter Sellers played a gullible gardener who learned everything he knew about the outside world from TV. And in The Truman Show (1998), Jim Carrey was an orphan who had no idea that he’d been adopted by a corporation that turned his life into a reality show.
Now we have Brigsby Bear, a worthy addition to the challenging genre. The movie marks the impressive directorial debut of Dave McCary, who’s been writing for Saturday Night Live since 2014. The picture stars SNL’s Kyle Mooney, who co-wrote the script with Kevin Costello.
As the film unfolds, we’re introduced to James (Mooney), a 25 year-old very content to be still living at “home.” The overgrown kid religiously tunes in to Brigsby Bear, a sci-fi series revolving around a crime-fighting superhero full of energy and optimism.
James has a good excuse for his stunted growth. Truth be told, his supposed parents, Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams), are actually kidnappers who abducted him in infancy. And they secretly produce Brigsby, the only program that ever comes on their TV.
They’ve managed to discourage James from venturing outside the house by filling his head with lies about the air being so toxic that he’d perish without a gas mask. So, he’s freely frittered away his future not only watching all 736 Brigsby Bear episodes, but visiting a fake chatroom devoted to the show.
Everything changes the day James is rescued by the police and returned to his birth parents (Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins) in Cedar Hills, Utah. Understandably, the adjustment to real-life proves problematic, since he remains obsessed with Brigsby to the point that he talks about it incessantly to anyone who’ll listen.
He’s lucky to find a couple of sympathetic souls in an actor-turned-detective (Greg Kinnear) and Spencer (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.), one of his teenage sister’s (Ryan Simpkins) friends. They agree to help make a Brigsby Bear movie which just might enable James to find some closure on the sordid opening chapter of his life.
A poignant character portrait capable of catapulting Kyle Mooney from SNL support player to bona fide matinee idol!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for drug use, teen partying, mature themes and brief sexuality
Running time: 97 minutes
Production Studio: 3311 Productions / YL Pictures / The Lonely Island / Lord Miller
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
To see a trailer for Brigsby Bear, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEohOb38hhs