REVIEW: Brigsby Bear

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Review by Dustin Heller

Brigsby Bear is the new independent drama-comedy written by and starring Kyle Mooney of SNL fame.  The film is directed by first-time director Dave McCary, a childhood friend of Mooney. The film played at both Sundance and Cannes this year, which really speaks to its quality.  Starring alongside Mooney are Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear and Andy Samberg.  Brigsby Bear is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, brief sexuality, drug material and teen partying.

James Pope was abducted as a baby by Ted and April Mitchum and kept in an underground bunker for 25 years.  The only knowledge James has of the outside world comes from a kids’ television show starring Brigsby Bear, a talking bear that is a hero to all.  It’s not until James is rescued from his captors that he realizes that Brigsby Bear was created solely for him by his fake mom and dad.

With his entire life revolving around a made up television show, it’s very difficult for James to plug back into society and relate with his biological family.  The only way for him to move on with his life and re-enter society is to make a movie about Brigsby Bear and close the book on him once and for all.  Problem is, nobody believes this is healthy for James and they expect him to move on without getting closure.

Brigsby Bear is pretty much the definition of an indie darling through and through.  The film premiered at Sundance to great reviews, it is a coming of age story, it’s incredibly quirky, it has great moments of both comedy and drama, and the whole thing feels incredibly personal.  Kyle Mooney and Kevin Costello have written a touching and heartfelt screenplay that is not only funny but exceptionally smart as well.  To that point, the story definitely isn’t a cookie-cutter and it goes in a different direction than one might expect.

The writing, along with his strange but brilliant, acting performance, squarely puts Kyle Mooney on my radar for all of his future projects.  Brigsby Bear also does a great job of mixing in some nostalgia with the world we live in today, from the look and feel of the VHS footage (and memories of Teddy Ruxpin) to watching the same content on our cell phones today.  This contrast of the old and new was not only a theme for the technology, but also for the new life James has been given.

A truly beautiful piece of filmmaking, it’s a little too early to say that Brigsby Bear is going to be the “best” film of the year but as of right now it is my favorite.  On a side note, this is exactly the type of film that helped to foster my love of the movies, and I hope others love it as much as I do.

Grade:  A+

Brigsby Bear opens in Indianapolis on Friday, August 18

You can follow Dustin Heller on Instagram @eatindywatchindie