Movie Review: Brigsby Bear

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Before I saw Brigsby Bear or even tuned into Kyle Mooney on SNL, I watched his YouTube channel. Dating back to 2011, Mooney’s channel, eloquently entitled “kyle,” played a crucial role in my adolescence. I can remember watching Kyle videos as far back as seventh grade, and imitating them for weeks after. There were hours of footage from Mooney’s skit group, GoodNeighborStuff, formed with director McCary and actor Beck Bennett. Between the two, I immersed myself in hours of Kyle Mooney’s comedy for years. So when I heard Mooney was in the process of making a full length feature film,  I was elated. To hear that one of my favorite comedians had escaped the drama-filled world of YouTube and made it to the big stage was a prospect I had never even considered. So, like Brigsby Bear, Kyle Mooney’s own journey is a hopeful, sentimental catharsis, fraught with emotion and humor.

Kyle Mooney, the star and co-writer behind Brigsby Bear, tells a turbulent tale of a kidnapped boy released into the world after years of imprisonment by his faux-parents.  While director Dave McCary toys with recurring themes of tragedy, loss, and alienation, Brigsby Bear ends on a surprisingly sentimental note.

The movie follows James (Mooney), a boy who was abducted from his biological parents at an early age. His captors, Ted and April Mitchum (Mark Hamill, Claire Danes), sever the mock-family’s connection to the outside world, allowing James only one educational TV show. The show, Brigsby Bear Adventures, is delivered weekly to the house, along with an entire garage worth of memorabilia and merchandise. James, smitten with the TV show, proceeds to decorate his room entirely with Brigsby Bear media. Brigsby Bear, shot in the style of classic 80’s children’s shows, was designed to keep James happy and complacent in his bunker. The program is reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh, albeit singing more of an educational tune.

Red flags about Ted and April are set off continuously during the first twenty minutes, whether they be about the alleged toxicity of the natural air or how they have a cult-like handshake before meals. These culminate in the arrest and detainment of James’ captors, prompting in a complete and utter destruction of the world as he knew it: the other users on his Brigsby discussion forum were none other than Ted and April, the air on earth was indeed safe to breathe, and Brigsby Bear didn’t exist outside of his bunker.

James is reunited with his biological family, complete with aloof sister and well-intentioned, awkward parents. The assimilation process takes time for James, as he navigates the fresh, new world of school, romance, and a normal family. However, just as it seems like James is adjusting well to his new life, Brigsby resurfaces. Initially upset at the lack of his television show, James takes it upon himself to direct, write, and produce the Brigsby Bear movies, consequentially ending the series forever.

James eventually involves his entire community in the production of Brigsby, ranging from the same detective who rescued him to his kidnapee, Ted. While he struggles with isolation and defeat, James ultimately succeeds in his mission and ends with melancholic film on a hopeful note.


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