Reintegrating kidnappees into society is familiar territory, but Dave McCary’s Brigsby Bear adds a charming, unique twist to the narrative. With a cast and crew populated by Saturday Night Live staff (including director Dave McCary, co-writer and star Kyle Mooney, and producer and co-star Andy Samberg), Brigsby Bear lacks the cynicism typically associated with themes of nostalgia; instead, Brigsby is rather heartwarming in its absurdity.
James Pope (Mooney) is rescued by the police from his kidnappers, Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams), and reunited with his parents, Greg (Matt Walsh) and Louise (Michaela Watkins). James has trouble reintegrating into society, and prefers to spend time thinking and watching his Brigsby Bear tapes: a fake children’s show produced by Ted solely for James. James seeks to make a film to finish the series, and manages to make friends along the way.
While Brigsby Bear handles some delicate issues, it strikes a balance between drama and comedy throughout. Despite the clear distinction between good and evil in the Brigsby Bear show (where the titular character must fight off a moon-like villain), the world that James inhabits seems to be full of moral grays: James’ ‘first father’, Ted, is played in sympathetic light, thanks to an excellent performance from Mark Hamill.
Brigsby Bear’s near-absence cynicism directed at its naïve, fanboy main character is a welcome change from the often sad, pitying films about fans and fan culture. Populist in its depiction of fan-made productions, director McCary and writers Mooney and Kevin Costello allow James to forge crucial social bonds through the making of the Brigsby Bear movie, rather than to come to terms with his past.
Brigsby Bear forgoes the dark comedic elements usually associated with films such as these, and instead casts fan culture and media obsessiveness in a positive light.
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Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile