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Review: BRIGSBY BEAR (2017) 'the offbeat comedy from SNL's Kyle Mooney has plenty of heart'

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Joseph Friar

By Joseph Friar
Aug. 10, 2017 at 5:20 a.m.



BRIGSBY BEAR (2017)

Kyle Mooney, Greg Kinnear, Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins, Mark Hamill, Ryan Simpkins, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Claire Danes, Jane Adams, Kate Lyn Sheil, Alexa Demie, Beck Bennett, Andy Samberg.

Directed by Dave McCary 

Saturday Night Live’s Kyle Mooney manages to take a parent’s worst fear and turn it into a tender and funny film that just might give you a case of the feels.  Mooney plays a 25-year old addicted to a children’s television show called Brigsby Bear that resembles a cross between Teletubbies and the 70’s Sid and Marty Krofft puppet show H.R. Pufnstuf.  It’s a boy-in-the-bubble type story as the sheltered man-child is exposed to the outside world for the first time after spending his entire life in an underground bunker with his parents.   

Mark Hamill and Jane Adams play Ted and April, the parents of the intelligent yet naïve James (Mooney) who at 25 is still stuck in the mindset of a 12-year old (think Tom Hanks in Big).  They live in the middle of the desert in an underground bunker in what resembles a post-apocalyptic dwelling like the one featured in 10 Cloverfield Lane.  They never venture outside the bunker without a gas mask and only Ted is seen occasionally leaving the underground shelter.  

James is obsessed with Brigsby Bear, a psychedelic children’s show featuring a life-size Teddy Ruxpin-like bear who saves the world from the clutches of the evil Sun Snatcher, a sun in the sky with an actor’s face protruding from the costume. I want to say the show reminded me a lot of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.  The heroic bear is joined on the show by two female humans called the Smile Sisters who help Brigsby defeat the villainous sun.  It all sounds like a bad acid trip but then again, I grew up watching H.R. Pufnstuf and my kids would watch Teletubbies, both of those shows most have been created after a drug-fueled escapade.  James has hundreds of Brigsby episodes on VHS tape and when he’s not watching the show he jumps online to join a forum where fans discuss the latest episode.  

The story takes an interesting turn when the F.B.I. raid the underground compound and James is thrust into the outside world only to find out that everything he has ever known is lie.   I will avoid any spoilers that would detract from the film’s magic, I feel the less you know about what is going on the bigger the reward.    

Mooney is great at playing the awkward man-child (as he’s done on SNL) and the cast here is fantastic especially Greg Kinnear as a sympathetic police detective who befriends James, and Claire Danes as a psychiatrist who tries to help James face his new challenges.  I also enjoyed the performance by Jorge Lendeborg Jr (Spider-Man: Homecoming) as a teenager named Spencer with a love for science fiction movies.  He’s introduced to the Brigsby Bear show by James and the two become friends who bond over their love for sci-fi.  The rest of the cast which features comedian Matt Walsh from HBO’s Veep, and a bunch of former and current SNL cast members Beck Bennet, Michaela Watkins, and Andy Samberg contribute performances that are touching in this delightful film written by Mooney and Kevin Costello. 

“Brigsby Bear” is an offbeat comedy with plenty of heart that is sure to put a smile on your face.  Directed by SNL writer and Mooney’s childhood friend Dave McCary, the film tackles a usually traumatic ordeal with sensitivity and humor.  Don’t pass on this sleeper at the box office.  

(3 ½ stars) 

Opens Friday August 11 at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and Regal Arbor 8 @ Great Hills in Austin.  In Houston you can catch the film at Edwards Greenway Grand Palace and AMC Dine-In 8.                     

 

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