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Blu-ray Review: Brigsby Bear

November 21, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

James (Kyle Mooney) is a young man who has lived a sheltered life, still watching and obsessing over his VHS tapes of Brigsby Bear, the endearingly cheesy children’s show that he has grown up with.  But when he discovers that no new episodes of Brigsby Bear have been made, he sets out to continue the series on his own, allowing him to make new friends as he learns how to navigate a real world that he knows virtually nothing about.

The directorial debut of Saturday Night Live writer Dave McCary, with a screenplay co-written by SNL cast member Kyle Mooney who also stars in the film, Brigsby Bear is the sort of film that should be seen knowing as little about it as possible, and there is actually much more going on in the plot than I would ever think of spoiling here.

Despite the fact that Brigsby Bear has been somewhat sold as a quirky comedy, it’s actually much more than that, and it’s worth noting that base of the story is actually quite disturbing, somewhat disarmingly so at first when the film first starts to show its true hand.  The story touches on dark themes of isolation and stunted development, exploring how pop culture sometimes provides the only refuge that kids have from the terror of the world around them.

Although the Brigsby Bear show that James watches is bighearted and teaches him lessons about the world – and it’s worth noting that the film nails the look and feel of a cheesy 1980s kids show in the clips of it that we see, right down to the mascot costume and animatronic head – there is also a darkness to the show that he must confront and come to terms with in order to truly move forward.  Kyle Mooney carries the film with an endearing and textured performance, and he is backed up by a strong supporting cast that includes Mark Hamill and Greg Kinnear, as well as memorable work from young actor Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as a kind new friend who genuinely wants to help James.

The film pulls off this tricky tonal mix between dark character drama and whimsical comedy, balancing these things with the often disturbing nature of the plot, and for the most part it succeeds in a way that allows all of these elements to play together as a whole, with one never superseding the other.  While Brigsby Bear is amusing as a comedy, it’s also an inventive and highly original look at a character finding a unique way to move past childhood trauma, and is ultimately quite touching to watch.

The Blu-ray also includes commentary by Kyle Mooney and Dave McCary, as well as extended and deleted scenes, a gag reel, and the featurettes The Wisdom of Brigsby Bear, An Evening With Brigsby Bear and Twin Speak: Kyle & Dave.  The disc also comes with Brigsby Bear: The Lost Episode, an extended clip of the show within the movie that is quite amusing to watch after the film.

Brigsby Bear is a Sony Pictures Classics release.  It’s 97 minutes and rated 14A.

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