Some people merely appear to be stuck in the 1980s, and its seemingly endless supply of pop cultural and fashion that is equal parts mockable and awesome. BRIGSBY BEAR, the debut feature from Saturday Night Live director Dave McCary, structures its narrative around a person who never left it. The result is one of the most charming and heartfelt films of the year.
James (SNL‘s Kyle Mooney) has been living in a bunker with his parents (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams) for 25 years of his life. His only other company are the endless tapes of Brigsby Bear, a children’s TV show with a morality tale in each episode. When he is suddenly forced out of the bunker, he is unable to watch his beloved show anymore. In this confusing time, James must turn back to Brigsby for guidance, even if he has to finish the stories himself.
The presence of SNL alumni, coupled with production credits from The Lonely Island, might imply some kind of cynicism or malice. BRIGSBY BEAR is the antithesis of that, building much of its goodwill on the earnest performance of Mooney. His fish-out-of-water outlook (or bear-out-of-bunker, if you will) may sharply recall Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or Blast from the Past. Yet the distinction here is that James doesn’t have to try and catch up with the world, and instead everyone else has to slowly join him in his enthusiasm.
Supporting Mooney is an amazing collection of actors adept at treading that thin line between comedy and drama. Greg Kinnear plays a kind of father figure to James, but shines comedically when his character unleashes an acting talent that longs for the camera. Hamill’s role is tailor-made for the multi-faceted actor, allowing him to show off those voice acting skills that have endeared him with fans over the years. There’s also a fun cameo from Lonely Island’s Andy Sanberg.
Like the fictional TV show within the film, BRIGSBY BEAR will bring people together for a collective feeling that’s just magical. Filled with references and allusions to countless films, along with a pitch-perfect recreation of 1980s television, it’s the kind of film that will leave you with a big sloppy grin on your face, and an overwhelming urge to do something positive.
BRIGSBY BEAR screened at the Sydney Film Festival 2017.