Kidnapped as an infant and raised in a bunker in the desert, James (Kyle Mooney) lives a lonely existence. For 25 years his only companions are his ‘parents’, Ted (Mark Hamill) and April Mitchum (Jane Adams), and the universe’s greatest hero, Brigsby Bear – a vacant-eyed animatronic bear from a cheesy educational children’s show. James’ life is consumed by his love for his favourite television character, and dictated by the lessons Brigsby bestows on him throughout his intergalactic adventures. Until one day, their bunker is discovered, Ted and April are arrested, and James is tossed into the big, wide, non-Brigsby world. When he discovers there are no more episodes of Brigsby Bear, James struggles to cope with the disappearance of his hero, and decides to share his love with the world and finish the story himself.
This eccentric film is a delight from start to finish. Its unique 1980’s cinematography and the incorporation of amateur film-making are a celebration of creativity and imagination. This film is beautifully nostalgic, provoking thought about the often cynical and prescriptive nature of our modern reality, and the gloomy expectations of adulthood and growing up. While the film critiques culture’s ability to indoctrinate impressionable viewers, the film chooses to focus on the way cultural texts are reworked and reimagined to fill a void in the viewer’s life.
Brigsby Bear is partly a coming-of-age film, quite a few years after James should already have ‘matured’. While it falls into some teen film tropes, the film manages to remain strange and vividly unique. In the end, it becomes less about growing ‘up’ and more about growing ‘out’, about spreading your passion and excitement with those who accept you for who you are. Kyle Mooney is well cast, and with each glimmer of James’ quirky humour, he becomes more lovable, and the film becomes more moving.
Refreshingly, the film also celebrates the connectedness and innovation of this era of technology, as the Brigsby Bear craze goes viral across the internet and spurs the characters on. Anyone who gives Brigsby Bear a bad rap for its cheesy ‘live your dream’ morals and childish playfulness is missing the point of this all round endearing and feel-good film. Maybe we need to banish the Sun Snatcher within all of us and let a little light in.
I rate this film 9/10 (bonus points for the goodest doggo ever)