An endearingly odd ode to the joys of fandom and the unifying power of creativity, Brigsby Bear will speak volumes to anyone who ever found themselves overly invested in a piece of pop-culture ephemera.
Current Saturday Night Live cast member Kyle Mooney (who also co-wrote the screenplay) plays James, a young man raised in a desert bunker by Ted and April (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams), two people he thought were his parents, but who had actually kidnapped him as a child. Led to believe the outside world was deathly toxic, James' entire existence in the bunker revolved around a bizarre animatronic kids show called Brigsby Bear Adventures, for which new episodes arrived weekly on videocassette.
After James is liberated from the bunker by the police, his worldview is shattered and he learns that Ted (now in jail with April) was actually making Brigsby Bear Adventures the whole time, and James is the only person who ever saw it.
Now back with his biological family, who are strangers to him, James struggles to adjust to his new life, but discovers a degree of purpose when he teams up with his sister and her friends to make their own Brigsby Bear movie.
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Much of the humour here is of the uncomfortable variety, with an element of tragedy underscoring many of the funniest moments. It's a tricky needle to thread, but the film-makers pull it off, resulting in an optimistic film with a genuinely unique perspective. Mooney's po-faced performance perfectly embodies this outlook, and Hamill is a revelation in support.
Although the aesthetics of both the film itself and the Brigsby Bear show recall the work of French director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), you'd never describe this as derivative. This is a heartfelt and colourful antidote to popcorn-cinema fatigue.
Cast: Kyle Mooney, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill
Director: Dave McCary
Running time: 100mins
Rating: M (Sex scenes, offensive language and drug use)
Verdict: Weird but good.
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