Sundance 2017: Superb 'Brigsby Bear' is a Nerdy Nod to Storytelling
by Alex Billington
January 24, 2017
As a movie lover, I'm inherently aware of how important storytelling is to inspiring and invigorating all of us. It can bring us together, make us feel hopeful, and teach us that we should always keeping dreaming, and always be ourselves. Brigsby Bear, a Sundance film co-written by and starring Kyle Mooney, directed by Dave McCary and produced by the Lonely Island guys as well as Phil Lord & Chris Miller, is a wonderful ode to the power of storytelling and friendship. I wasn't expecting to enjoy this film as much as I did, but there is a genuinely sentimental side to it, on top of all the laugh-out-loud comedy, that elevates it from something fun to something truly memorable. You won't be able to forget the Brigsby Bear after seeing this.
Brigsby Bear opens by introducing us to James (played by Kyle Mooney), a kid living with his two parents in locked, underground bunker in Utah. He has spent the last 20 years of his life cut off from the outside world growing up watching nothing but tapes of "Brigsby Bear", a very cheesy, live-action, educational 80s kids TV show starring an animatronic bear. When he's suddenly forced to enter the real world, awkwardness ensues, and his new parents try to force him to forget about his past and become normal. But his passion for the show and totally nerdy attitude (not to mention complete social awkwardness) inspire everyone he meets, and he soon sets off to make his own movie that finishes the "Brigsby Bear" storyline from the tapes. There's more to it, but as always, it's better to save the big reveals for the experience of watching it yourself.
There's plenty of awkward humor in Brigsby Bear that is highly effective thanks to Mooney's near perfect comedic sensibilities. This seems like the character he was born to play, and he really brings him to life. However, there's also a very sweet side to the film, acknowledging the big heart he has and the emotional power of passion. The film is essentially an original project made by passionate, nerdy people telling a fun story about passionate, nerdy characters. And how these characters learn that this passion and nerdiness is actually a good thing, and should be encouraged not discouraged. There are ups and downs, and mistakes made along the way, but this is a normal part of life. It's also a metaphor for making movies, about how you just have to get your friends together and make something fun and not worry about what anyone else thinks.
This film made me so happy and left me feeling inspired, and I love coming across films as unique as this that can have that kind of effect. Brigsby Bear has an excellent balance of heart and humor, it's stuffed with 80's nostalgia, embarrassing jokes, colorful characters, and genuine passion. It doesn't care who likes it or not, and it's not ashamed to be what it is. The people who made it put their effort and energy into making something completely original and totally entertaining, and that's what counts the most. They've made a film that will remind filmmakers why they're doing what they're doing, and should inspire everyone else to remain true to themselves. Cheers to the entire team behind this film for bringing out their own nerdiness.
Alex's Sundance 2017 Rating: 9 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing