One morning a few months ago, the critics were contacted about going to an early morning screening of Brigsby Bear. That’s because director Dave McCarty (co-writer, and Saturday Night Live producer) and star Kyle Mooney (also of SNL) would possibly be in town to do some press. It was also interesting to find out that Mooney is a graduate of Scripps Ranch High School. The interviews never materialized, unfortunately. I would’ve loved to talk to them about this quirky film.
I’m going to start by saying I will give no spoilers in this review, as some critics already have. And it’s best to go into it not knowing a lot about it. The press releases state something along the lines of: Brigsby Bear is a children’s show produced for an audience of one. When that show abruptly ends, James’s life changes forever.
Apparently this crew (now part of the Lonely Island) did funny videos on YouTube while going to USC.
We get to watch as James (Kyle Mooney) tries to come to grips with losing his favorite TV show, and dealing socially with people in a way he never has before.
What’s so fun about this movie is that…although it has things I’ve seen in other films…it is also original in so many ways. For example, we’ve seen the childlike innocence in an adult character (think of Tom Hanks in Big, or Will Ferrell in everything). Yet the things James says and does are sometimes bizarre, but usually hysterical. And the hip kid that could make fun of him…instead kind of likes him, or feels sorry for him, or a mix of both. He also helps him in his quest to resurrect Brigsby Bear.
Mooney shows a restraint that works wonderfully, and he plays everything straight. It’s perfect for that character, and makes the laughs so much better because of it. At times it reminded me of Peter Sellers in Being There.
Of course, you also chuckle at the cheesy look of the kids show being viewed on VHS tapes. And especially his discussions at the dinner table with his dad — played by Mark Hamill.
The other supporting cast is solid, too. It includes Claire Danes, Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins (the SNL member that was so terrific in Lake Bell’s In a World…), and Greg Kinnear, who continues to take interesting roles. He’s a police detective with a heart of gold (and some acting ambitions).
There are a handful of scenes that are subtly hilarious, and among my favorite of any comedy this year. One has Matt Walsh shooting baskets with James, who has obviously never played a sport in his life. He shoots a basket like somebody that just learned how to use their arms for the first time.
Another scene involves a conversation with a woman after a sexual experience. It was hysterical. This movie was almost like the fanboys at Comic-Con saw Room and thought — how can we make a movie like that?
Now, there were some dark elements in this story that weren’t completely explored. Apparently, that was Mooney’s original intent.
After I saw it, I was going to give this movie 3 stars, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it. And that was months ago.
3 ½ stars out of 5.