Brigsby Bear Review – A Warm and Fuzzy Comedic Drama

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Brigsby Bear, from Sony Picture Classics, presents the story of an James, a budding filmmaker, who is experiencing a brand new world and in finding his creative wellspring he must return to a troubling and unusual past.

Directed by David McCary, Brigsby Bear stars Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett, Claire Danes, Greg Kinnear, Mark Hamill, Jorge Lendeborg, Jr., Kate Lyn Sheil, Ryan Simpkins, Jane Adams, Nick Rutherford, Alexa Demie, Chance Crimin, Matt Walsh, and Michaela Watkins.

Brigsby Bear opens with James, played by Kyle Mooney, finishing his podcast on the adventures of Brigsby Bear, a childhood character along the lines of Barney the Purple Dinosaur, that has entertained him throughout his 21 years adapting to the ever changing mental state of a child, adolescent and now, his persona has become inter galactic warrior.

James, along with his parents, Ted and April Mitchum, played by Mark Hamill and Jane Adams, live in an underground bunker, throwbacks it seems to an anti-social 1960's commune movement or as we see Ted leaving the house with a gas mask the threat of uncontrollable pollution has been realized making the air unhealthy. The three have built a life, or so it seems, in this world underneath earth.

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Recognizing his son is feeling lonely, Ted and James sit in a make shift indoor bio-sphere of an outdoor scene which is meant to quiet the soul. Something just isn't right and for one, his only pal Brigsby can't answer the nagging inner man that keeps impressing upon him that something is really wrong.

Disobeying the life rules, he leaves the bunker for the outside for some serious stargazing when he sees green dots of night vision glasses and suddenly a squad of FBI appear chasing him back down the rabbit hole essentially as he runs back to his "parents" whom he sees the FBI restraining.

The last words we hear from Ted Mitchum are "Remember we really did love you."

This is where Brigsby moves into Act II and takes an unusual turn. Suddenly we find ourselves in an interrogation room, a cold, hollow place, with a two way mirror with James, biting his fingernails as the trauma of the evening and the reintroduction to the air quality, in his mind, has left him dizzy.

Detective Vogel, played by Greg Kinnear, enters and we understand, as the movie takes the shift from odd to bizarre, the reason behind the underground bunker and other controlling behaviors as James is listening to the litany of usual questions is asked about the treatment of The Mitchum's.

Shocked over the responses, he attempts to explain Ted and April were not his real parents and he was the victim of a hospital newborn kidnapping and his birth parents have spent the last 21 years trying to find him.

For someone who is entirely obsessed with a fictitious human size bear, the news sends him back to like episode from a decade ago, as Ted Mitchum, a Science genius, we find out used the episodes to create real life challenging situations and elevated teaching tools. The only comfort James has in re-entry is his obsession with his "past life" and Brigsby Bear.

So . . . Brigsby Bear delivers a solid film and Kyle Mooney, a Saturday Night Live cast member, handles the comedic elements of the reentry into society with a Robin Williams-esqe "Mork" style of humor and situation confrontation.

His re-entry, for someone who is presented as someone who has an easy going manner and for the purpose of control, limited outside or other involvements, is harsh. The truth of life after captivity is challenging for everyone especially James who simply wants to see the next episode of a television show created exclusively by his captor for the purpose of allowing his "son" to experience a childhood friend and teaching tool.

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Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins play Greg and Louise Pope, his birth parents, who have after twenty-one years of expectation finally got their son back and are less than enthusiastic over his continued loyalty to his past life.

Claire Danes appears as the Clare the family counselor hired to assist the entire family adjust. She delivers a spot on performance of someone, qualified, who is completely out of touch with the realities of the situation and delivers a hardline approach.

Greg Kinnear is a bright light in this film. His performance, as he moves from the by the book and oddly compassionate and understanding Detective Vogel, to fulfilling his true thespian dreams is classic. His comedic skills are sharp, fine-tuned and gives a low key, behind the scenes, underlying solid performance. 

Granted Brigsby Bear may not appeal to everyone, there is a heightened sensitivity surrounding the back story., It is a surprising film that sheds light through comedic delivery on the effects of mind control, reentry into society and kidnapping, Brigsby Bear pits our affable beneath the earth alien against 21 century society with winning results.

Critically acclaim at both 2017 Sundance Film Festival and The 2017 Los Angeles Film Festival, Brigsby Bear will have a challenge surviving at the box office against the still ruling summer blockbusters and the highly anticipated and promoted challengers.

Brigsby Bear opens July 28, 2017.  

Images courtesy of IMDB.


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