A bit like its namesake, “Brigsby Bear” is a film that grows on you.
James Pope (Kyle Mooney) has spent his whole life watching the “Brigsby Bear” television show. He even leads an online forum talking about each episode.
The thing is, no one outside the home where James grew up has actually ever seen the “Brigsby Bear” show. Then, when he’s 25, the show comes to an abrupt ending that throws James’ life into chaos.
If that’s all a bit cryptic, it’s intentional, though there are a few hints here. There are just a few surprises hat filmmakers surely don’t want to spoil, based on how the trailer and studio summary of the film are presented. Far be it from me to steal the film’s initial thunder.
Mooney, a Saturday Night Live writer and cast member with very little on his big screen resume, penned the screenplay with Kevin Costello, and it’s co-produced by Saturday Night Live veteran Andy Samberg. Despite the comedy backing, “Brigsby Bear” is better classed as a dark comedy and even verges on creepy at times, with Moonie’s James’ socially-awkward naivete falling somewhere between “Elf” and “Napoleon Dynamite.”
The film seems to move at its own pace, slow at times, but all the while becoming more endearing. Even with the odd pacing, the film has its shining moments. Overall, the story is even heartwarming in its telling of how James learns to live in a world he didn’t know existed and didn’t want, as well as how those who love James come to actually understand him.
Some of the characterizations are a bit flat, a bit too formulaic, notably Claire Danes’ insensitive psychotherapist and Beck Bennett's detective. However, Mark Hamill gets a chance to show off his impressive voice talent — something he’s made a career out of in the years between Star Wars roles.
Samberg has a brief role, providing another oddball character in a film full of people trying to figure out who fits in and who is the misfit.
The real heart of the movie, to me, is Greg Kinnear’s performance as Detective Vogel. It’s the kind of thing that may not garner much attention come awards season, given the small-budget and limited release of the film, but Kinnear steals the show as a police officer who is among the first to understand, and support, James on his own terms.
It’s highly original and definitely offbeat, but “Brigsby Bear” is a film worth checking out.