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Brigsby Bear review: don’t be fooled by the trailer

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After hearing Saturday Night Live star Kyle Mooney was set to take the lead in a feature, I was met with both happiness and hesitance – would it be more akin to a classic skit or a forgotten one?

It follows James Pope as he watches and obsesses over Brigsby Bear – a low quality TV show that mixes fantasy and adventure while crowbarring in tenuous life skill lessons. Brigsby, however, wasn’t simply a TV show, it was an arduous tool used by his parents, April (Jane Adams) and Ted (Mark Hamill) to keep him comforted and sedated in a bunker in the middle of nowhere.

Yet, upon learning via the FBI that April and Ted kidnapped him 25 years prior, James is left needing answers. Not for the truth as to why he was kidnapped, but instead, when will the next Brigsby Bear be released? To the behest of his therapist and parents, James’ Brigsby fascination takes him to different extremes in order to share the show he loves with the world.

For those who love a bit of 80s nostalgia, get ready to feel confused by a new genre: the faux-80s. Strands of the era are transmitted through the use of VHS, old logos and bad TV, in the best possible way. A coming of age drama offers a comedic twist about a guy who isn’t used to the modern world, but thankfully, this doesn’t involve a tedious run of gags about the internet, mobile phones or social media.

Instead, Brigsby Bear focuses on the social cues that James has missed out on, those that make him an innocent, naive and altogether well meaning person, protected in the bunker by all that makes us cynical.

Director, Dave McCary avoids questions as to why James was kidnapped or how it affected his real parents, instead he chooses to mirror James’ fascination with Brigsby – the preservation of his childhood is the key to the plot. This allows for a simple, yet concise plot that leaves you with nothing to do but watch pure childhood joy emerge from an otherwise devastating set of circumstances.

Overall, it’s a heartwarming adventure that rekindles many childhood dreams while inadvertently pulling together a broken family. It’s 4 flicks.

The shock?

Kyle Mooney’s ability to lead a feature without making it feel like an extended skit, offering a brilliant performance among great supporting actors in Greg Kinnear, Mark Hamill and Michaela Watkins.

The let down?

Not enough Andy Samberg.

Audience rating?

I didn’t believe it was possible to smuggle 100 minutes worth of snacks into a cinema, but the couple enjoying a gourmet picnic behind me seemed to manage it, forgetting quite easily that they were at the cinema. Lots of chomping and chatting.

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