By Brad Haynes
★★★ out of ★★★★
It’s hard to believe that a film where the plot stems from a child abduction could actually be warm, tender, and very funny, but that’s what you get with Brigsby Bear.
Directed by Dave McCary, a veteran of many of the best Saturday Night Live Shorts, the film was written by Kevin Costello and the film’s star (and also SNL cast member) Kyle Mooney.
As the film begins, Mooney leads an odd, yet peaceful life as a man-child enchanted with a series of VHS tapes known as the Brigsby Bear collection. They all feature the bear (who is basically a life-sized Teddy Ruxpin), the villainous Sun Snatcher, and a pair of twins with the last name Smiles.
We quickly learn (not really a spoiler here) that Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams), the couple that Mooney’s James thinks are his parents, are actually a couple who abducted him as a child and who have successfully shielded him from any outside influence his entire life. It also becomes quite clear that they actually do love and care for him.
As James is reunited with his true family, his story becomes a “fish out of water” tale as he tries to not only fit in at home, but with the others around him, including his teenage sister’s friends. While he is significantly older than they are chronologically, that’s not the case emotionally. One of the film’s funniest scenes finds him being seduced by his sister’s best friend and not entirely knowing what to make of the whole thing.
The one thing James is most upset about though is that the Brigsby Bear series was never actually finished. With the help of his sister’s friend Spencer (fantastic newcomer Jorge Lindeborg Jr.) and a kind police detective longing to be a thespian (the immensely likable Greg Kinnear), James and his newfound friends go about filming the concluding chapter of Brigsby Bear.
The whole concept of the Brigsby Bear series is brilliantly executed, with just the right amount of amateurish cinematic qualities to make it look like it would have been right at home on a local cable channel.
Mooney is perfect as the lovable man/boy who is quickly confronted with all kinds of lessons about growing up. Watching his character succeed, and oftentimes fail, you quickly grow attached to James. The same can be said for almost all of the characters in the film. While they may not always do the right thing at the right time, you know that ultimately their hearts are in the right places.
And Brigsby Bear is full of heart, making it the feel-good sleeper of the summer.
The Good: Brigsby Bear is full of heart and beautifully demonstrates the power of imagination.
The Bad: Occasionally the film becomes a little too saccharine sweet.
Final Word: Kyle Mooney is a delight to watch, as are the rest of the Brigsby Bear cast. The film is an uplifting cinematic experience.
Starring Kyle Mooney, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear, Claire Danes. Directed by Dave McCary.
Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, brief sexuality, drug material and teen partying.