Comedy comes in many different forms, many that I find very amusing. I have a very bizarre sense of humor. I really like absurdity, surrealism, dryness, satire, and a whole bunch of categories of different comedy. It’s why I can never really pinpoint what I really find funny: I just laugh at what I laugh at. One thing I don’t have a problem laughing at is uncomfortable, awkward, and sometimes dark situations. I’ve noticed a lot of people can’t handle it, claiming that they put themselves into that same awkward situation that character is in. I can be completely disconnected, though! Bring on the cringe! 

James (Kyle Mooney) lives with his parents Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams) deep underground in a bunker. Forbidden from ever going outside, James is practically raised by the children’s television show Brigsby Bear, which features an anthropomorphic bear going on intergalactic adventures. He’s obsessed with Brigsby, wearing out his VHS tapes, decorating his room for memorabilia, and even participating in an online forum. This illusion is suddenly shattered when the authorities arrive at his home, revealing James was kidnapped from birth by Ted and April. Now reunited with his family and trying to adjust to the outside world, James only cares about finding the next episode of Brigsby Bear. When he finds there are no new episodes, he sets out on a journey to make a Brigsby Bear movie to cap off the series. 

Brigsby Bear is one of those high concept comedies that’s a lot of fun to watch, but there’s this dark subtext that lingers under the whole thing. The subject matter here is inherently dark, with a child kidnapped from birth, raised in a cult like environment, and struggling to learn about how the world really is when he escapes. When James reunites with his family and tries to live a normal life, it’s all quite sad, even when it’s played for laughs. You can’t help but get excited by James’ enthusiasm to make the Brigsby movie, but also can’t shake the discomfort regarding the actual context of the situation. You never really forget that you’re watching a horribly, mentally damaged man trying to live the only life he knows. However, watching him make the film and live out his dream was actually kind of inspiring, especially as an aspiring filmmaker. The rest of the characters all play different types of straight men to James’ antics, representing the different parts of the real world he’s missing. They’re aware of his mental state that stems from his captivity, but they realize an aspect of that is truly part of him and what makes him happy. 

But with all that darkness, it never stops the film from being absolutely hilarious and surprisingly touching. It’s the comedic elements that really hold it all together, because without them, then we would have had a truly weird and depressing drama on our hands. Brigsby Bear was produced by The Lonely Island comedy troupe of Saturday Night Live fame. It definitely feels like a film made by them (complete with a small and unnecessary Andy Samberg role), as the tone is very irreverent and bizarre. They’re not afraid to make light of certain situations and make you feel uncomfortable by laughing at them. That’s one of the things I’ve always love about them: their absurd style of comedy. It was the perfect tone to take for this type of film. I was consistently cracking up because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing or hearing at times. It was all just the perfect mixture of funny and sad. Like the actual Brigsby Bear show, the plot itself sounds amusing, but the subject matter behind it all is quite dark. 

Kyle Mooney is wonderful as the lead character, amazingly portraying a childlike man whose only exposure to the outside world was through a low budget television show. He’s so earnest and unaware about how the actual world works, and you genuinely find yourself caring about his goal. While making the Brigsby Bear film seems to be preventing him from moving and maturing, it’s hard to argue with him when it genuinely makes him happy. To see his face so filled with wonder when he’s putting the film together is just satisfying to see. One of the more impressive parts of the film, which really elevates Mooney’s character, is how fleshed out this fictional Brigsby Bear show feels. If you didn’t know any better, you would think it was actually an old public access TV show they decided to base a film around. It’s actually quite impressive how deep the lore to the show went, and it shows how passionate everybody was to bring this story to life. 

For a film about a mentally stunted man escaping captivity and trying to make a film about the only thing he’s ever known, Brigsby Bear is actually quite touching. From the marketing and the title, I thought I would be getting something a bit more avant garde, but I surprisingly got an incredibly human story about a man learning to live in the real world through the only means he knows how. Who ever thought a Lonely Island production would be one of the most inspirational and heartfelt films of the year? I certainly didn’t. 


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