Disorientation is usually a bad thing; going through a state of mental confusion and having no sense of balance. Brigsby Bear may be one of the most disorienting films ever screened at Sundance. It also may be one of the most enjoyable, original and fascinating films I have ever seen.
Kyle Mooney and Kevin Costello have written a film directed by Dave McCary that is unlike anything I have ever seen. This creative, hilarious tale is a movie hard to place in a genre pigeonhole and nearly as impossible to describe.
Brigsby Bear centers around James Pope, who is portrayed pidgenhole by co-writer Kyle Mooney. The first time we see Pope he is watching his favorite TV show about an anamatronic bear named Brigsby, who is constantly saving the world while teaching valuable life lessons – some stranger than others.
The twist comes when the FBI raids Pope’s home and we discover his parents are not who we think they are. In fact Mooney has been held captive for over 25 years. What comes next is what you could only explain as Room or 10 Cloverfield Lane as a ridiculous, slapstick comedy.
Pope is returned to his original birth parents and he must learn about everything this planet has to offer. The vague description of the plot is to keep this film as mysterious as it should be on a first watch. Every frame that hits the screen becomes more enjoyable than the other. Mooney and Costello tell a story of someone so tragic and so misunderstood but make him incredibly lovable, hilarious and redeemable. The world they have created and tone of the story is so enjoyable and unique.
As Pope struggles to adapt he learns that Brigsby Bear, his favorite show he watched everyday of his life doesn’t really exist and was created entirely just for him by his kidnapper. Instead of this upsetting him, it inspires him to find the set and create a film to finish the story of Brigsby Bear. After much push back and discouragement Pope, along with friends and the lead detective on his case, begin to create his passion project – a Brigsby Bear movie.
It will be easy for film lovers to take this movie into their hearts because it is a testament to the power of film and its ability to help us all escape. Pope is this young adult who had the world try to destroy him and take his childhood years from him. The power of this film and this character give his life meaning and it’s a beautiful thing to watch.
The heart of this film is what makes it work on such an outstandingly high level. Mooney is brilliant as the “kidnap kid” as he is called awkwardly and the supporting cast is just as strong. Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins are wonderful as the original birth parents. Mark Hamill is great as the man who kidnapped Pope, Greg Kinnear is hilarious as the lead detective and there are several other great supporting roles.
The laugh per minute rate is as high as any film screened in recent Sundance memory. But the final scene is nearly guaranteed to move you to tears. It’s an incredible feat for a movie like this to accomplish. The story and circumstances of this film continue to become more and more outrageous but it works on every level.
There’s never been a film like Brigsby Bear and I can not wait to see it again.