Brigsby Bear

We all had television shows that became part of our lives growing up, but in Brigsby Bear, a television show consumes the life our beleaguered hero.

A fanboy satire that likely will appeal to the same demographic, this odd mix of domestic drama and quirky coming-of-age comedy is a charming tribute to nostalgia, individuality and the power of imagination.

James (Kyle Mooney) became obsessed with a children’s show called “Brigsby Bear Adventures” growing up because it was the only show he ever saw.

After a late-night raid by police of his family’s rural compound, James learns the truth — that his parents had kidnapped him as a baby and shielded him from the outside world. And more importantly, the weekly installments of Brigsby Bear were created only for him.

Now in his twenties, he’s hopelessly nerdy and naive as he tries to assimilate into the family of his real parents (Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins) and teenage sister (Ryan Simpkins). While they would rather erase Brisgby from his memory, James is still obsessed, and decides that recruiting some of his sister’s misfit friends and making his own Brisgby movie — thereby wrapping up the series — is the key to returning to normalcy.

The premise might sound like a comedy sketch from “Saturday Night Live,” which spawned the careers of Mooney and rookie director Dave McCary. Yet there’s surprising depth and tenderness to the material, making the abundant eccentricities more endearing than obnoxious.

Its deadpan approach might not be for all tastes as it occasionally borders on smugness while trying to juggle tones. However, Mooney garners sympathy amid a cast that includes Greg Kinnear, Andy Samberg and Mark Hamill in smaller roles.

Although the film veers too often into forced awkwardness and comes perilously close to being mean-spirited and condescending toward the audience, the underlying sweetness and sincerity helps to disguise the thin nature of the premise.

On the surface, Brisgby Bear seems like a weirder variation of the Oscar-winning Room, alternately amusing and discomforting during James’ bizarre quest for self-discovery in the face of arrested development.

In glossing over the ethical dilemmas inherent in its premise, the point here isn’t to pass judgment or offer social commentary. Instead, even though the film requires a hefty suspension of disbelief, buying in yields plenty of rewards.


Rated PG-13, 99 minutes.