Brigsby Bear

Review by Josh Slater-Williams @jslaterwilliams

Directed by

Dave McCary

Starring

Jane Adams Kyle Mooney Mark Hamill

Anticipation.

Room meets Be Kind Rewind is certainly an intriguing premise.

Enjoyment.

The comedic mileage from its faux show goes a long way.

In Retrospect.

The film’s own arrested development bothers with post-viewing distance.

If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure to be underwhelmed...

This is the story of an emotionally stunted thirtysomething who can only conceptualise the world around him through cultural iconography, which might make it sound like it’s a serious work about a film critic. Instead, it’s an off-kilter, open-hearted comedy.

For decades, James (Kyle Mooney, also co-writer) has lived with his supposed parents (Mark Hamill, Jane Adams) in a secluded bunker. He was kidnapped from hospital as a baby and raised with no connection to the outside world. His every waking thought is consumed by educational sci-fi series Brigsby Bear Adventures. Unbeknown to James, all 700 plus episodes of the show, and some merchandise, were produced by his captors, who used it to instil certain values into the lad, such as how curiosity is an unnatural emotion and how frequently one should masturbate. Think Barney & Friends written while high(er).

About 10 minutes into the film, James is rescued by the authorities, who explain his abduction and return him to his biological parents (Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins). Amid his uncomfortable discoveries of the real world is the realisation that no one else knows of Brigsby, and that the show’s nonsense mythology will never be concluded with its maker now imprisoned. Neglecting his real family’s attempts at bonding, James becomes obsessed with making his own feature film conclusion.

SNL veteran Dave McCary largely manages the difficult balancing act between earnest emotional trauma and silly comedy, though it never truly embraces this latent dark streak. Every time the script flirts with psychological pathos, attention is quickly whisked away to more clichéd American indie tropes, with James assembling and inspiring a ragtag crew – like some aspiring actor-detective – to pull off his dream while following their own. For all the film’s celebration of imagination as a tool for escape, the trajectory it follows is too uninspired.

Published 7 Dec 2017

Tags: Kyle Mooney Mark Hamill

Anticipation.

Room meets Be Kind Rewind is certainly an intriguing premise.

Enjoyment.

The comedic mileage from its faux show goes a long way.

In Retrospect.

The film’s own arrested development bothers with post-viewing distance.

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