I really did get to the movies a lot this past week. Let’s look at this rather bizarre comedy, Brigsby Bear.
Or, as Ryan described it: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Movie.
Ryan’s description isn’t really accurate. Close, but not quite.
James (Kyle Mooney) is a 25 year old man living in an underground bunker with his parents Ted and April (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams). As far as James knows, some sort of apocalyptic event made the outside world uninhabitable without a gas mask, but he’s been raised on a steady stream of videotapes, a new one each week, featuring a heroic bear character named Brigsby. Brigsby Bear looks like a low budget kids show, but James has tons of merchandise featuring the character he is slavishly devoted to, chatting online with other fans while the show teaches him advanced math and science but also the idea of staying loyal to the family unit and how curiosity is an unnatural emotion.
If the idea that some sort of videotape delivery system in a post-apocalyptic setting seems weird to you, don’t worry. There’s a reason for it that James discovers very early on in the movie. The atmosphere? It’s fine. The apocalypse? Hasn’t happened. His parents? They aren’t his parents. They kidnapped him as an infant from his real parents. Brigsby? He has a loyal following of one, namely James. Ted was making the show himself in a warehouse nearby, and the internet chat was just Ted and April pretending to be other fans. Once the local police and the FBI raid the bunker and return the adult James to his biological family, he needs to learn all about the outside world, and his only frame of reference for anything is Brigsby, a show that was never actually finished due to the sudden arrest of Ted and April and nobody outside of James even knows who or what Brigsby is.
This has all the makings of a very dark story. It actually isn’t, oddly enough. There isn’t a dark bone in the movie’s body. Based off a story by Mooney, James sets out to finish Brigsby’s story himself with help of an ever-growing group of family and friends that come to embrace James’ dream and childlike innocence as they develop a love for Brigsby in their own way. James makes a few mistakes along the way out of pure ignorance, and his biological parents are clearly hurting from how much James identifies with some fictional world his kidnappers created, but almost everyone James meets is eventually won over by his pure-hearted love of this bizarre bear character and the storytelling that goes with it. And hey, since it was produced in part by The Lonely Island, that means a small role for Andy Samberg and a way to utilize Hamill’s gift for voiceover.
It’s not a great movie, but it is a somewhat endearing one that fits with a sort of indie comedy vibe. Let’s say eight out of ten animatronic foxes.