Brigsby Bear wears its influences, as well as its big soppy heart, on its sleeve. A labour of love by director Dave McCary and writers Kevin Costello and Kyle Mooney (the film’s star, and a cast member Saturday Night Live), it tells the tale of a 20-something kidnap victim who’s spent his life locked in an apocalypse bunker with his fake dad (played by Mark Hamill).
In the bunker, Mooney’s character James has one source of entertainment: the educational children’s TV show Brigsby Bear, starring a grotesque, animatronic creature with a convoluted backstory and an uncanny knack of knowing when James hasn’t tidied his bedroom.
The bunker escape premise is suspiciously similar to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (another SNL star-vehicle), the visual style is indebted to The Mighty Boosh (there’s even a giant man’s face as the sun), the deliberate over-acting is reminiscent of cult comedy series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, while the redemptive power of community film-making is straight out of Be Kind Rewind.
But Brigsby peeks from the shadow of these influences by virtue of being relentlessly likeable. Where other films would resort to cynicism, Brigsby Bear sees the best in everyone, offering redemption to even the most undeserving of characters. This leads to occasional bouts of toe-curling tweeness, for the most part it’s a heartwarming joy.
First published in CIty A.M.