‘Brigsby Bear’ is Strange, Funny, and Surprisingly Sentimental

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Brigsby Bear

Brigsby Bear, the new film from director Dave McCary and co-written by Kevin Costello and star Kyle Mooney, is probably best if you go in knowing very little of the film. In its opening scenes, we’re presented with a curious life in a secluded underground bunker. We’re left to wonder why a family is living in seclusion. Was there a cataclysmic event? Is this a post-apocalyptic movie? The answer isn’t quite that simple. Brigsby Bear is a surprising movie in every sense of its being, a funny and sometimes horrifying work of oddball cinema that has a surprisingly strong emotional core. I would suggest not reading further unless you need more details to better know whether or not Brigsby Bear is a movie for you.

It turns out that James (Mooney) was kidnapped as a child by Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams), raised in seclusion by the offbeat couple. That life comes crashing down when the authorities track down the couple and free James from his life of unknown captivity. In seclusion, James has found himself obsessed with the children’s show Brigsby Bear, though he’s shocked to learn that the show that has raptured him for all his life was made just for him by his kidnapper father. Now James must integrate into society with his birth parents (Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins) and his younger sister Aubrey (Ryan Simpkins). James struggles to fit in as the world he’s known comes crashing down. He visit a therapist (Claire Danes) and consults the Detective Vogel (Greg Kinnear), who was the first friendly face following his unexpected liberation. After accompanying Aubrey to a party, James meets Spence (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), whose interest in making movies forms a bond with James. The two then set out to finish the story of Brigsby Bear in their own low budget movie, but bringing his favorite character back to life brings the traumatizing past closer to the surface.

Much of the comedy of Brigsby Bear comes in the form of a fish out of water story that follows James as he tries to understand society outside of the bubble which he was raised. There’s a child-like enthusiasm to James as he’s reinvigorated from his malaise following his freedom. The clips of the Brigsby Bear show and movie that take place within this story are also hilarious, and they highlight a real demented sensibilities from the creative team behind the film. This is also the rare movie that actually understands what would blow up on the internet, and when clips of the show find their way on YouTube it creates an interest in James’ movie and the crazy world of Brigsby Bear.

What really stands out about Brigsby Bear and the story crafted by Mooney, Costello, and McCary is the well-rounded emotional aspect that grounds the comedy. James’ obsession with the character created by his captors torments his biological parents who have never had a chance to get to know their son. Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins give gut-wrenching performances as these struggling parents, each bringing a certain level of empathy to the parents as they try to establish some form of boundaries without pushing too hard. There’s also a joyous emotional aspect to Brigsby Bear, and that comes in the form of James finding an invigorating spirit in creating. James finds catharsis in realizing his vision, and it allows Brigsby Bear to stir a whirlwind of emotions over the course of its unusual story.

Brigsby Bear is a special, unique film, one that takes place in a strange perspective but doesn’t allow the audience to laugh at its outsider character. We’re given reason to care about James and his reunited family, and it all works magnificently. Kyle Mooney and his collaborators take the audience on a strange journey full of laughs and tears, but they never bring out anything mean-spirited in the unusual characters that occupy this world. When it’s all said and done, Brigsby Bear will leave with a big smile on your face, and a little tear running down your cheek.

Brigsby Bear
  • Overall Score


A funny and strange scenario provides Brigsby Bear with its unique premise, but the creative team led by star and co-writer Kyle Mooney keep the film grounded with a surprisingly effective emotional core.

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