Offbeat comedy “Brigsby Bear,” shines with heartfelt weirdness

Harry Westergaard reviews the new comedy "Brigsby Bear," a strange, yet surprisingly sincere new comedy.

Harry Westergaard, Film critic/reporter

Brigsby Bear is one of those wonderful films that is nothing but original. Say what you will about the quality of the thing- but you will not see another motion picture that resembles it all year. Sufficient to say the premise is a little out there. It deals with James (Kyle Mooney of SNL fame) a man nearing middle age who has been kept in seclusion for all of his life by over-protective parents (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams). The only exposure to the outside world he has is through videotapes of an old television series called “Brigsby Bear.” It’s an old fantasy kids show, which resembles a surreal mixture of Power Rangers and Teletubbies. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.

As if that wasn’t enough, there are many twists and turns along the way. To spare readers spoilers, the bulk of the film deals with James’s reentry into society, and his quest to complete the unfinished plot threads of the Brigsby Bear TV series. If there is any comparison to made, it is with Being There. Though this is a less cynical story.

Kyle Mooney in costume, from “Brigsby Bear.” Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The film is surprisingly carried by its strong cast. Kyle Mooney is in the lead role, and while you may not expect it from a character actor, he carries the movie quite effectively. He has an awkward, yet infectious charm. When he spews off about the eccentric plot lines about Brigsby, he does so in a way that churns out enthusiasm, rather than the annoying dribble that some sci-fi fans are known for. You really feel his love for this show, and the drive he has for closure.

Kyle Mooney is in the lead role, and while you may not expect it from a character actor, he carries the movie quite effectively”

— Harry Westergaard

There are also a lot of little subtleties in the performance. Small mannerisms or pronunciations really hit home that this man has been kept from society all of his life. Some of these are quick to miss, but that’s the charm in them. They aren’t overdone or anything. You almost come to pity James at times, but there’s a perfect balance so that it’s never an overly depressing ordeal.

The rest of the cast, as I stated earlier are what holds the film together. With a film this out-there, you really need everybody to be on board. And that’s certainly the case here. Mark Hamill plays a character who does not always, shall I say, make the best decisions. While you don’t sympathize with him necessarily, Hamill plays his role as more than a villain or cartoon. He adds specific mannerisms, and we understand the character’s motives, though he is insane in the end. Speaking of cartoons, his talent for voice acting is put to good use in an innovative way. I’m not going to say more, however, because this is not a movie to spoil.

Mark Hamil and Kyle Mooney in “Brigsby Bear.” Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Greg Kinnear, who hasn’t been in a lot of notable movies or TV shows lately, plays Vogel. In the role, he is one of the more tragic characters in the film. The drama is not over played, but you can see some melancholy in his character, a detective who suppressed his dreams to be an actor for a more sensible career. His small journey of self-discovery parallels that of James. It’s a nice little touch and contributes to one of the main themes of the film, which is following the path of your dreams.

Production values are low, but I have to say, they really went all out on the brief clips of the “Brigsby” show that we do see. I’m a sucker for this kind of nostalgia and it’s all perfect. The tape-controlled mouth that’s never in synch, the crappy green screens, the chroma keying and the beautiful VHS distortion added to it all. It’s enough to please geeks like me, but the nostalgia is not all there is to it. Much of the film is devoted to the characters, and nostalgia plays a role in this to some degree, but if you’re looking for Stranger Things, you will be disappointed.

In addition, Brigsby Bear, is one of the better movies about film making that I’ve seen in awhile. Not in a technical way, but in the way that we see James’s love for storytelling and getting the film made no matter what obstacles get in the way. It’s different than classics such as Day for Night and Singin’ in the Rain because it embraces a more informal way of film making, but still shows the same love for the medium. If not more love than the aforementioned. It’s almost a film about film making for the Video Store generation, in an odd way.

“Brigsby Bear,” is one of the better movies about film making that I’ve seen in awhile. ”

— Harry Westergaard

While Brigsby Bear is a very strange story, the themes that it presents are actually very universal and classic. It’s about dreaming, and following your dreams no matter what gets in the way. Saying it like that it sounds super cliche, but in the execution it is anything but. That is one of the many perfect balances the film hits. With a perfect cast, energy and enthusiasm for film, this is one of the better films of the season, and one that I see holding up as a cult-classic.