James Pope, the gentle-souled dweeb Kyle Mooney performs in Brigsby Bear, is an nearly literal man-child, fairly actually sheltered. Thirty if he’s a day, James nonetheless lives together with his eccentric hippie mother and father (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams), however he has a superb excuse: They’re all holed up collectively in an underground bunker, due to an unidentified disaster that’s made the air above unbreathable. James’ sole curiosity, his consuming obsession, is Brigsby Bear Adventures, a low-budget science-fiction serial he’s been watching his complete life; the present, which is mainly Physician Who by means of Barney, arrives like clockwork on VHS each week and encompasses a time- and space-traversing bear whose exploits convey easy life classes that appear to suspiciously advance in demographic purpose as James ages.
Any viewer paying consideration could begin to marvel a couple of post-apocalypse with Netflix companies. Quickly sufficient, we study the shattering reality, at concerning the very second James does: His mother and father aren’t actually his mother and father, however two strangers who snatched him when he was a boy and raised him in captivity from there on out. The world above isn’t a poisonous wasteland, simply the California desert. And Brigsby Bear Adventures has an viewers of precisely one: the kidnapping sufferer its been custom-made to coach and entertain. All of which makes Brigsby Bear sound like one thing darkly sophisticated, pushing down a path parallel to warped-upbringing dramas like Room and Dogtooth. As a substitute, it seems to be way more… huggable than that: a unusual sitcom restoration fable about reworking our childhoods via artwork to beat them.
Mooney, who made the film together with his sketch comedy troupe Good Neighbor, has wrapped an affecting premise in a protecting layer of Indiewood cotton sweet. The detrimental niceness begins with the Saturday Evening Stay star’s script however extends to his ingratiating space-boy efficiency. James, as Mooney performs him, is like an overgrown home-schooled child launched from cryogenic freeze, absorbing and parroting new slang. (“Dope as shit” turns into his go-to superlative.) Reunited with the actual mother and father (Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins) he doesn’t keep in mind, James treats nearly everybody he meets as a sounding board for his unwavering, one-man Brigsby fandom—a transparent signal that he’s not fairly able to let go of the sham life that was organized for him. However Brigsby Bear labors laborious to make his maladjustment charming; James’ teenage sister (Ryan Simpkins) could also be briefly embarrassed by his social incompetence, however many of the supporting characters discover him as cuddly because the mascot-like bear hero he worships. (In one of many extra far-fetched developments, strangers additionally un-ironically embrace the campy present uploaded onto YouTube.)
Will James, like the child in Room, come to want a return to his pretend life over the messier, more difficult actual one? Is his relationship to artwork ceaselessly sullied as a result of he now expects every little thing he consumes to be personalised? Resonant questions bubble across the edges of Brigsby Bear. The movie clearly sees James’ devotion as a metaphor for the extreme relationship some followers develop with their favourite leisure, their loyalty to the work shaping (and narrowing) their worldview. On the identical time, the character displays nostalgia for an period of much less hostile fan tradition; James could also be unhealthily fixated on the chintzy, public-access-grade area opera of his youth, however his adoration by no means curdles into nerd-rage protectiveness—he genuinely needs to offer Brigsby to the world. Nonetheless, in celebrating the “purity” of James’ love for the present, Mooney denies this childlike fish-out-of-water any deeper layers of tension, dread, or anger. His trauma stays summary.
There are hints of the extra soulful fairy story Brigsby Bear may need been—within the melancholy scene the place James hunts down the starlet (Kate Lyn Sheil) his father deceptively (and considerably improbably) forged in a long-running Brigsby supporting position, in addition to any second with Greg Kinnear, warmly understanding because the detective on the case. In his try to make peace with the frilly lie that was his life underground, James finally makes the leap from fanatic to artist, figuring out his advanced Brigsby emotions—which is to say, his emotions towards his “outdated” mother and pop—via home-movie fan fiction. However the large finale by no means reaches Chuck & Buck ranges of therapeutic catharsis, as a result of Mooney hasn’t actually allow us to see James’ ache, solely his gushy wide-eyed innocence, his lovability. At one level within the movie, James’ father reprimands Kinnear’s detective for humoring and even enabling his son’s Brigsby obsession, reminding him that the DIY present was a vital instrument in imprisoning and manipulating him. It’s a stable level he finally forgets—and one which the film, drunk on the adorkable love affair between man and his imaginary bear pal, by no means actually takes to coronary heart.