Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Dave McCary
Written by: Kevin Costello, Kyle Mooney
Cast: Kyle Mooney, Greg Kinnear Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins, Mark Hamill
Screened at: Sony, NYC, 6/27/17
Opens: July 28, 2017
Have you ever heard of an enlightened kidnapping? That’s not the one which finds the miscreants looking for ransom or using their victims as sex slaves. The best kind of kidnapping—at least the kind that’s the least of the evils—involves people who abduct children because they do not have any of their own. They treat their captives with advantages unknown among kids who remain with their own folks—who will likely get divorced or be miserable together. Dave McCary, a Saturday Night Live writer directing his first full-length movie, goes for the offbeat, which is to say a story that takes more risks than he took when he served as director of TV shorts on Medicare, Republican presidential candidates, Freedom and America’s debt. Yet because he is graced with the acting chops of Kyle Mooney, a co-writer in the title role, his movie could be embraced even outside the art-house crowds and could lead many in the audience to pull out their Kleenex as the final credits roll.
The story opens on some VHS celluloid about a Teddy bear that’s almost the height of Harvey the invisible Rabbit, an animal that may be too tall and weird to be huggable especially since this Teddy presumes to teach his viewers that “curiosity is an unnatural emotion.” (Sounds like good advice to cats, at least.) James Pope (Kyle Mooney) memorizes each episode like today’s fanboys for Star Trek, taking charge of a forum to blog on the show. The 25-year-old James, however, though a happy guy, is being unknowingly kept in a bunker by his alleged parents Ted Hope (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams), hidden him away from the outside world. When the good-natured adults are busted in an FBI raid, James is befriended by Detective Vogel (Greg Kinnear), who introduces James to his biological parents Greg Pope (Matt Walsh) and Louise (Michaela Watkins). Though his sister Aubrey (Ryan Simpkins) is embarrassed by James’s dorkiness, he makes friends at a party especially with the super-hip Spencer (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.). connecting with them over discussions on making new episodes. He gradually becomes assimilated into the real world.
Thematically, “Brigsby Bear” is about the creative impulse, as not only does a group of young people succeed in making this new movie, but most significantly, Detective Vogel, who appeared in his earlier days in theater in characterizations such as that of Prospero in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” reignites that spirit to take on a role in the new episode.
Director McCary and writers Kevin Costello and Kyle Mooney succeed in presenting to the movie audience an ode to both creativity and to the movie industry itself, but this film would not have been the success it hopes to be without the terrific work of the whole ensemble, each member of which gets more or less fifteen minutes of fame. “Brigsby Bear” was filmed in Salt Lake City and is graced by some magical visual effects, particularly in the opening scenes.
Rated PG-13. 100 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Comments, readers? Agree? Disagree? Why?
Story – A-
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+