Movie Review: Brigsby Bear

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I have been anticipating watching Brigsby Bear since I heard about it early last year.  The strange looking trailer and the struggles critics went through to describe the film had me interested from the start.  The movie even managed to crack my 5 Must-See July ‘017 Movies during a summer blockbuster month beside films like Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Valerian.  I must have known that Brigsby Bear was going to be special at the time I said, “There is simply no way to describe what to expect from this unorthodox looking film… this may be the sleeper cult hit of the summer.”

I finally got my chance to watch Brigsby Bear as it was added to Canadian Netflix earlier this month.  The only question was: could it live up to the hype I built up for myself?

Brigsby Bear was initially released at Sundance Film Festival in January 2017, where the rights were quickly picked up for a cool $5 million.  Later, the movie saw a limited release in the US and critics ate it up.  Rotten Tomatoes gives it a Fresh score in the low eighties, and IMDb has it at a 7.4/10.  Besides a unique looking theme and style, Brigsby Bear boasts an unbelievable cast with Kyle Mooney, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear, Claire Danes, and Andy Samberg all making appearances.

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The story follows James (Kyle Mooney) who grew up in an underground home with parents Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams).  Taught that the air outside was poisonous, James spends an entire life watching episodes of Brigsby Bear and being home-schooled by his mother.  One night, the police arrive and pull James out of the home while arresting his parents.  He later learns that he was abducted as a baby and has been raised to believe things that didn’t exist- including the ploy that Brigsby Bear doesn’t exist and that his father created it just for him.  As James adjusts to the real world, he can’t help but obsess over what happened to Brigsby, and he takes it into his own hands to complete the story.

The elephant in the room obviously comes in the form of the giant animatronic/puppet bear.  Brigsby Bear is like a Teddy Ruxpin on acid.  The more you learn about the show as the film progresses, the more confusing it sounds.  But, when you think about how his captors continued to make the movie to educate James as he grew older, and how the plots needed to adapt with an ageing child, there are twenty-plus years of content to fill from toddler themes to adult storylines.  The low budget style mixed with the space battling teddy bear make this a show that I think many of us nerds would totally watch.

Written by Saturday Night Live star, Mooney, this is anything but your typical SNL movie.  Mooney performs in a film that fits his style and comedy perfectly.  There is no way that anybody else in the world could play this part the way that Mooney does.  While I always enjoyed his performance on the sketch comedy show I now have a deeper appreciation for his art and humour.  Should Mooney write and star in another film you better believe I will be there.

Mark Hamill is also a genius addition to this film.  Hamill needed to pull off many performances from the fatherly role to villain, to a talking teddy bear, and he pulls each one off brilliantly.  If you needed to fill the voices of a bunch of characters for a children’s program, Hamill would be my first pick.  But, he also pulled off the many necessary subtleties required to pull off this misunderstood antagonist- if you can call him that.

I was aware going in that Brigsby Bear was going to be a unique film and I couldn’t be more pleased.  Honestly, this was one of the best movies I have watched in the last year.  My favourite element had to be the parallels between Brigsby and James, and how the two storylines fit together.  Anytime a film can basically explain to you what is going to happen at the halfway point of the movie, and still keep you captivated the whole way through is successful storytelling.  Everything about this film was spot on, from tone to overall plot.  Brigsby Bear is a story about nerds and our connections to the fandoms we love.

Score: 9/10

One of my favourite new movies, I will watch this again and again.  I would recommend Brigsby Bear to anyone.  The only reason it lost a point in my score is because I could use more Brigsby, I feel like I need to watch the original show.

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