This Is a Movie Review: With ‘Brigsby Bear,’ Kyle Mooney Applies His One-of-a-Kind Style to a Rescued Kidnapping Victim

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in July 2017.

Starring: Kyle Mooney, Greg Kinnear, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins, Ryan Simpkins, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill

Director: Dave McCary

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for First Times: First Time Doing Hand Stuff, First Time Tripping, First Time Making Dynamite

Release Date: July 28, 2017 (Limited)

It is certainly possible for a film about an escape from kidnapping to be about the triumph of the human spirit. But is it also possible to also make one in which the spirit was never really beaten down in the first place, just slightly confused? Brigsby Bear sure seems to think so. It’s basically what Room would have been if it were a quirky, offbeat comedy. If you’re a fan of writer/star Kyle Mooney, then you have already bought your tickets. If you’re unfamiliar, then let me explain a little more.

Like a lot of young adults who spend most of their time at home, James Pope (Mooney) is obsessed with his favorite TV show. But unlike most TV fanatics, he stays indoors because he has been led to believe that the outside air is toxic, and also unusually, his particular favorite show, “Brigsby Bear Adventures” (a sort of charmingly low-budget live-action spacefaring Saturday morning cartoon) is produced for an audience of one. Because, as it turns out, the people James thinks are his parents actually abducted him when he was a baby. When the authorities track down the compound and return James to his real family, he struggles to move forward in this strange new world. He is able to accept that these people are who they say are, and his social adjustment is relatively smooth, but what really bothers him is the astounding realization that he will never know how the story of Brigsby Bear concludes.

But wait – there is a solution to be had! James decides to put together his own amateur production of a Brigsby Bear film, and the result is a paean to the stirring power of filmmaking. Although… is it perhaps irresponsible to present the story of a kidnapping victim whose recovery consists mainly of a major element from the time of his captivity? It is acceptable that the pull of the familiar, however distorted it may be, cannot be denied (James revisits the bunker in a moment that plays exactly like the return to the shed in Room). And to be fair, every individual captive’s experience is unique. So it is ultimately inspiring to see James’ family and entire community embrace his Brigsby Bear obsession, because they recognize that as strange and as risky as it may be, this is his best chance to recover and flourish. There are certainly discomforting moments (especially in the case of Mark Hamill, who, as James’ impostor father and the man behind Brigsby, toes a tricky line between detestable and genuinely human), but they are among the intrinsic elements that make this story as heartwarming as it is.

Brigsby Bear is Recommended If You Like: Room, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Kyle Mooney’s YouTube/SNL videos

Grade: 4 out of 5 Giant Costume Heads

 

2015 Emmy Nominations Predictions and Wishlist

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For my detailed thoughts on my predictions and wishlists in the major Drama, Comedy, and Variety categories, check out these links:
Comedy
Drama
Variety

Guest Actor, Comedy
John Hawkes, Inside Amy Schumer
Michael Rapaport, Louie
Chris Gethard, Parks and Recreation
Dwayne Johnson, Saturday Night Live

Guest Actress, Comedy
Susie Essman, Broad City

Guest Actor, Drama
Mel Rodriguez, Better Call Saul

Guest Actress, Drama
Allison Janney, Masters of Sex
Linda Lavin, The Good Wife

Directing, Comedy
Rob Schrab, “Modern Espionage,” Community

Directing, Drama
Adam Arkin, “The Promise,” Justified

Writing, Comedy
Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna, “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television,” Community

Writng, Drama
Thomas Schnauz, “Pimento,” Better Call Saul

Animated Program
Bojack Horseman – “Downer Ending”
American Dad! – “Dreaming of a White Porsche Christmas”
The Simpsons – “Treehouse of Horror XXV”

Commercial
Android – “Friends Furever”

Host – Reality/Reality Competition
RuPaul, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

Interactive Program
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Main Title Design
Man Seeking Woman

Single-Camera Picture Editing, Comedy
Bojack Horseman – “Downer Ending”

Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program
Too Many Cooks
Billy On The Street With First Lady Michelle Obama, Big Bird And Elena!!!

Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or a Variety Program
Community

Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role
Man Seeking Woman – “Traib”