Brigsby Bear: A Comedy Full of Heart

Kyle Mooney as James. @ Brigsby Bear Movie, LLC., Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Brigsby Bear is a comedy full of heart and one of the rare comedy highlights this summer.

Directed by Dave McCary from a screenplay by Kevin Costello and Kyle Mooney, the indie comedy stars Mooney, Beck Bennett, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Greg Kinnear, Kate Lyn Sheil, Ryan Simpkins, Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins.  Andy Samberg, who produces with The Lonely Island team, has a cameo role as Eric.  Phil Lord and Christopher Miller also produce.  Jorma Taccone even directs the Hockey High film that’s depicted in the movie.

Brigsby Bear joins The Big Sick this summer as being one of the rare comedies that stood out.  In a summer in which the studio comedies flat out missed on every mark, it was the indie films that rose to the occasion.  Both films premiered at Sundance and have been a hit with the audiences.

As far as the casting goes, it was very important that they got things right.  In casting Hamill as Ted, they certainly did and this was a huge coup for them given the budget.

Left to right: Kyle Mooney as James and Mark Hamill as Ted. @ Brigsby Bear Movie, LLC., Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“It’s a complicated role and we felt that character’s presence called for being both warm and odd in very specific ways,” McCary says.  “So, to say the very least, getting Mark Hamill was a total coup.  He does an amazing job of portraying this eccentric man who has put a child through an indefensible ordeal while at the same time showing the audience that somewhere in his complicated, flawed core, he’s not a bad person.  And, of course, because the film has a lot to do with obsessive fandom, I think Mark inherently felt a connection to the story that must have added to his performance.”

Despite James (Mooney) being abducted at the hospital shortly after birth by his fake mother April (Jane Adams), the film doesn’t really explore the dark side of the situation.  Instead, it follows his obsession with the fake television series, Brigsby Bear.  Even after being told that the series was fake and created by his fake father, Ted (Hamill), James is still obsessed and even wants to finish the series by making a movie.

It’s not that often in which a world is created just for someone but for James, it was.  Brigsby Bear was the invention of Ted but James didn’t know this and he grew up a super-fan because it was the only television series that they got at home in their underground bunker.

Even as he still lives at home as a young adult, James recaps every single episode online.  He knows the story lines by heart.  As he grew up, the series did so as well.  But the people who kidnapped him never told him that he’s the only one watching the show.

It’s not until he decides to go out on the roof one night in which James’ entire world falls apart.  His birth parents had been searching for him all this time and it’s Detective Vogel (Kinnear) who breaks the news to James.  All of this is hard on James.  Even as he tries to adjust to living with his real parents, Greg and Louise (Walsh and Watkins), and meeting with a therapist (Danes) and the police, he remains obsessed with a fake television series so much that he wants to make a movie to give the series the end it never got.  Through his sister, Aubrey (Simpkins), James meets Meredith (Alexa Demie), and an aspiring filmmaker in Spencer (Lendeborg Jr.) at a party and they make a Brigsby Bear movie together.  Spencer even puts some of the older video clips online and people actually watch them.

With the help of new friends and his family, the series comes to a fitting end.

Following it’s world premiere during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Sony Pictures opened Brigsby Bear in New York and Los Angeles on July 28th.  It expands to Chicago today.

 

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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