Dave McCary’s Brigsby Bear is an eccentric, sweet-natured film that succeeds largely because of a winning performance by Kyle Mooney. This is a promising debut for director McCary and star Mooney (who also co-wrote with Kevin Costello). Although you may have seen elements of this film before, it is not likely you have seen them combined in quite this way.
When we meet James (Mooney), he is watching his favorite TV show, Brigsby Bear. The main character, a giant teddy bear, mouths platitudes like, “Curiosity is an unnatural emotion.” Afterward, he rushes to his distinctly vintage computer and posts to online forums about the show. His parents (Mark Hamill, Jane Adams) gently remind him to do his chores and homework.
Everything appears perfectly normal, except that James is never allowed to go outside. The logic behind this parental decision becomes clear when FBI agents show up and arrest his “parents”, who kidnapped James as a baby. The agents return James to his birth parents.
Adjusting to a brand-new set of parents plus a sister is difficult for James. It becomes even harder when he learns Brigsby Bear was not an actual television show but an invention of his “kidnapper dad”. James fantasizes about a movie based on Brigsby Bear and finally decides to make one himself.
Although James’ character is the most developed, there are also standouts in the supporting cast. Chief among these are Ryan Simpkins as James’ blasé sister, Greg Kinnear as the police detective with an acting yen, and Claire Danes as James’ patient though bemused counselor.
The art department, along with everyone who worked on visual and special effects, deserve special credit. Their work on the enclosure where James was held is outstanding. The Brigsby Bear videos are uncannily authentic.
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