Directed by: Dave McCary
Starring: Kyle Mooney, Greg Kinnear, Mark Hamill, Jane Adams, Matt Walsh, Andy Samberg and Claire Danes
Run Time: 1h 40min
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: 3 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
Brigsby Bear is nothing if not quirky. It’s a story about a boy who never has to give up his childish things because, essentially, he never has to grow up. Well, until he’s rescued, that is. I’ll explain. In the situation the main character, James (Mooney), finds himself, he wouldn’t know how to grow up so the subject would never be breached. He lives in a perfect world with supportive parents who love him, take good care of him and always let him watch his favorite show, Brigsby Bear. Not unlike a popular children’s show of any era, from Mister Rogers to Barney, Brigsby Bear is fun and educational and James has watched it so long he couldn’t live without it. It’s who he is. It’s who he is because it was actually produced for him by his parents to teach him what they wanted him to learn and to inject only their feelings and belief system.
It turns out, though always taken care of by them, James’ parents, Ted (Hamill) and April (Adams), kidnapped him when he was a baby and they’ve been keeping him in an underground bunker, in the middle of the desert, ever since. Sadly, never being around other children or seeing the real world, James is childlike, yet he’s in his twenties. He’s immature and his life is only what they have allowed it to be. He hasn’t mentally grown beyond the age of a ten year old and his mind knows only what Ted and April have fed it. The world of Brigsby, a sci-fi series given to him to watch on VHS, has so penetrated his psyche that no amount of truth could drill it out. It’s who he is. This is tested when the police finally discover what Ted and April have done and come to ruin the only world James has ever known.
When he is taken away from the only parents he has ever known, he meets Detective Vogel (Kinnear) and his birth family and is introduced to the harsh reality of the real world; most especially, that the Brigsby Bear show is gone forever. Or is it? Saying too much will give away what’s so compelling about this flick. It’s completely original… strangely and so absurdly unlike anything I’ve seen before. An adult who acts like a child because he has been treated as one his whole life. What a fascinating concept. Saying too much at this point would give away the plot.
He does try and thwart having to grow-up as much as he can but when he looks at the broader picture, he knows what he has to do to grow up and finally move on. All he asks of everyone is to let him do it in his own way. It’s this part that makes this narrative so unique. Well, that and the unconventional jokes that make you draw back a bit… but that’s all on purpose.
Brigsby Bear is an amusing ride. There are a few bumps in the road but overall the story has heart, integrity and is surprisingly clever. You’d do well to put it on your summer must-see list for the experience of watching the cooperation, love and support that helps a man-child become a man. The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child so imagine…