x

Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Film review: Brigsby Bear is charmingly quirky

Brigsby Bear may lack the bluster and bombast of typical summer fare, but what it lacks in budget, it more than makes up for in charm – this is undoubtedly the quirkiest movie you'll see this summer

Brigsby Bear may lack the bluster and bombast of typical summer fare, but what it lacks in budget, it more than makes up for in charm – this is undoubtedly the quirkiest movie you'll see this summer.

The story takes place in the previously unexplored crossover section between The Truman Show and The Room, but unlike the young protagonist in The Room, Mooney's James Pope isn't locked in a bunker with his mother, but by his mother (and father, played by Star Wars legend Mark Hamill), and unlike the protagonist in The Truman Show, he isn't the unwitting star of a made up TV show, but it's biggest fan.

Pope, you see, has been locked up underground by his assumed parents since he was tiny on the basis that a terrible disaster has befallen humanity and the air outside their sanctuary is unbreathable. His sole interaction outside the subterranean threesome has been with a TV show, Brigsby Bear. The show is a freaky affair featuring a giant talking bear, an evil sun, lots of lasers and saving the world, random maths puzzles solved by a pair of identical twins, and cod philosophy on the importance of the family unit. It exists somewhere between Teddy Ruxpin, The Teletubbies, cult propaganda, and the height of sixties psychadelia, and James is obsessed.

There's just one problem – his 'parents' are actually the couple who kidnapped him as a baby, there's been no great disaster, and Brigsby Bear is the creation of his former toymaker 'dad,' designed to keep him occupied in his isolation. When James is rescued from his world by the police and returned to his real family, he discovers there are no more episodes of Brigsby to watch in the outside world, and his life falls apart.

It would be easy to play the uber-sheltered manchild of James' exposure to real life for goofy laughs – indeed given Mooney's pedigree as a writer and star of Saturday Night Live you'd perhaps expect it – but the comic gives a delightfully subtle performance, offering just the right amount of wide-eyed innocence and social awkwardness without ever turning James into an object of fun.

As the movie progresses, James slowly learns to better interact with the world and people around him, including Jorge Lendeborg Jr's aspiring CGI artist Spencer. He also learns that there are other TV shows and movies out there, and that anyone can make them so, determined to bring closure to the Brigsby Bear story, James and Spencer set out to make their very own Brigsby movie.

It's all fairly light-hearted fare – even though the initial kidnapped child premise is fairly grim, it's clear that James' fake parents actually genuinely love him in their strange way - but it does also offer a serious comment on a society obsessed by fanboy culture and nostalgia fetishism. The presence of none other than Luke Skywalker, perhaps the ultimate symbol of fanboy obsession, as James' fake father is a stroke of casting genius here. There'd be a delicious irony if the movie became a surprise breakout hit and Brigsby Bear memorabilia were to become the must-have novelty item of the summer.

That probably won't happen, but we'd heartily recommend lovers of off-kilter laughs to do their bit to make it by checking Brigsby out this weekend.