Why 'Brigsby Bear' Is The Must-See Indie Film Of The Summer (If You Can Find It)
Written by Kevin Donaldson
Brigsby Bear is a movie that may or may not be on your radar right now. It’s the first theatrical starring role for a current "SNL" cast member whose sketches often get cut for time. This is, of course, Kyle Mooney, who also co-wrote the film with his childhood friend Kevin Costello while their other childhood friend and "SNL" segment director Dave McCary directed Brigsby Bear.
Mooney himself said he came up with the idea for the film in childhood about a TV show that’s made for an audience of one. His affection for puppet-themed public access shows that are hard to find on VHS also comes through prominently. Despite all the buzz, Brigsby Bear has been unable to see a wide release since its debut at Sundance back in January and is currently only playing in a few cities. Before we get into any of that, let’s check out the trailer:
Geez, for a movie with so many famous actors and actresses in it, it sure is bizarre this isn’t getting a wider release. They even got Mark Hamill (talking to Kyle about imagination in the trailer) doing a non-voice acting/non-over-the-top supervillain/non-attempted child-killing priest/non-Luke Skywalker role… which is something he never does! Why isn’t this a wider release?
I’ll start by saying that I know nothing about the budget; however, other indies with big name talent like Juno and Garden State went on to get wide releases despite only have a million dollar budget. The Lonely Island and Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“Last Man on Earth”, 21 & 22 Jump Street, The Lego Movie) even produced this movie. Something isn’t adding up here…
Well, if you read any of the reviews out there, it’s being said that Brigsby Bear is great but very weird, i.e. not a movie for the general public. While this movie might not be for everyone, it still is much more applicable to mainstream audiences than many other people would have you think. Something like Spring Breakers, with it’s drug-trippy style of narrative and not caring so much about story and loose music video-style camera work, would understandably not be a mainstream movie, but Brigsby Bear follows the usual three-act structure in a conventional way. It is still good-looking visually, but there’s nothing even that new here like some people might have you think. Something like Scott Pilgrim took more chances visually yet is considered more mainstream. I say all of this as a huge fan of Brigsby Bear.
Without giving away too much, the movie follows Kyle Mooney as a man named James, who, for certain circumstances that should be obvious in the trailer but aren’t spelled out, is the only viewing audience of a show called "Brigsby Bear". When the episodes end, he gets a group of people, whom he introduces the show to, to help him make a movie version where he can make what he’s always wanted to see from Brigsby and his magical identical twin sister friends. Sound familiar?
Substitute the plot of the show "Brigsby Bear" featured in the movie and you get what many people are doing today. Sometimes people like to follow the rules of their favorite show/character and stay true to the source material. Others want to simply make what they’ve always wanted to see whether it works for that character or not. Some people can do both. Either way, it shows the love of fandom and making movies in general. This makes this movie possibly more geared toward film buffs at times but there are other things to appreciate.
For example, I saw Brigsby Bear in a movie with 10-12 different people that I did not know at all. I noticed at times we were all laughing at different moments, sometimes even during the same jokes. That’s the comedic power of Kyle Mooney. "SNL" doesn’t seem to put enough behind him despite being one of their strongest creative minds, because his style and sense of humor can be seen as too weird by some people. Given that the theater had a wide demographic in those 10-12 people I saw it with, with regards to race, gender, and age, Mooney himself stands as having something for everyone in his performance. Whether it’s his delivery, body movements, or what he’s saying, it’s safe to say Mooney and Brigsby Bear can provide something enjoyable for everyone.
Mooney mainly got popular over the web with "SNL" cast member Beck Bennett through their online sketches under the name “Good Neighbor”. Mooney was also known to go off and do his own man-on-the-street interviews that he does at "SNL" sometimes as well. Here’s one of Mooney’s famous “cut for time” moments that might give you better insight into what appears to me his “choose your adventure laugh” style of humor if you are not familiar:
Why is this not in many theaters right now? It’s the question I wanted to answer before I got started and now that I’m ending I honestly have no idea still. If it had a wider release, I don’t know for sure that it’d make a Dunkirk amount of money, but I’m sure it’d make higher than whatever its budget was. There really is something for nearly everybody in it besides maybe a career military employee… especially if they are a Korean War vet.