This a movie to watch with no prior information. If you’re willing to do that, suffice it to say that the film is a strange, hilarious, and heartfelt comedy.
If you need more than that, please read on. Minor plot details follow that tiptoe around spoilers.
Brigsby Bear is a story of a young man named James (Kyle Mooney) who is obsessed with a TV show about an intergalactic bear that fights an evil talking star in what seems to be a low budget 80s style production. James’s entire life has revolved around Brigsby (the titular bear) so when the show abruptly ends, he must adjust to normal living. He has no other context for regular human reactions and the film becomes both a coming of age and a fish out of water story of him learning about the real world while proving to it that his passion is worthwhile. To demonstrate what he has learned from his favorite show, he decides to make the film sequel. With no experience, money, or even, initially, friends, he writes a script, draws a storyboard, and starts his journey anyways.
James’s integration into modern society is a limitless supply of laughs. He has never had friends or been exposed to any type of media other than Brigsby so he frames everyone’s behavior in terms of plotlines from the show. Brigsby reacted in a certain way, so he assumes that he should too. The trouble comes in the many scenarios that Brigsby did not cover, namely parties, slang, and drugs and alcohol. In these cases, James makes the exact wrong choice and imitates others…poorly. His (mis)use of slang around the wrong people and the way he copies other people’s mannerisms to try to be normal are endearingly awkward. His good-natured spirit makes every faux pas equal parts hilarious and sweet.
The film’s success rests on Mooney’s pitch perfect performance. With even a trace of knowing satire or cynicism, the entire film would have fallen apart. Mooney instead plays James with the most childlike earnestness. Every interaction he has is free from judgement, ulterior motives, or ego. Mooney creates a genuine innocence that becomes the heart of the film. He approaches luxuries we take for granted with a contagious wonder and enthusiasm. In a world of forgotten dreams and suffocating realities, James is a dreamer with nothing but hope. His passion, dedication, and conviction are absolutely infectious, even if the project in question is ridiculous.
Director Dave McCary strikes a tone that precisely complement’s Mooney’s performance. The film never looks at its subjects with any sense of ridicule. His camera comes from a place of pure compassion and every character’s flaws or desires are treated with respect. For example, there is a detective who wanted to be a Shakespearean actor, but gave up when life got in the way and McCary gives his hopes the deepest sympathy. Like James, the film views the world as an open book, with each individual as an aspiring writer. They just need the belief in their own ability to say something. The tenderness of McCrary’s direction and Mooney’s sincere screenplay and performance create a film that reminds us of the passions we neglect and celebrates the desire to create that exists in all of us. It’s an offbeat, heartfelt, and hilarious counterpoint to cynicism and apathy.