Published Jul 31, 2017There are often growing pains when comedic disruptors achieve mainstream success. Tom Green's proto-trolling sensibilities were poorly received in his (secretly great) movie Freddy Got Fingered; the Lonely Island, despite all of their successes online and on SNL, have yet to make a film that's both acclaimed and financially successful; and Sacha Baron Cohen hasn't yet figured out what to do since losing his Borat persona to a pair of worn-out catchphrases.
Like those forebears, Kyle Mooney is one of his generation's most distinctive comedic voices. Under the name Good Neighbor, he's been making subversive and definitively unique comedy videos alongside Beck Bennett, Nick Rutherford and Dave McCary since 2007. The troupe's sensibilities caught the attention of Lorne Michaels, who brought them to Saturday Night Live. There, their sketches are often too weird for mainstream audiences and wind up cut for time, but make no mistake — these are comedy's current cool kids.
Brigsby Bear is directed by McCary and co-written by Mooney, who also stars. Bennett and Rutherford make appearances in the film. Though not officially a Good Neighbor movie in title, it's as close as we're going to get. All of which raises the question: How do Mooney's various gut-busting personalities stack up onscreen?
Diehard fans may be disappointed to learn that Mooney has eschewed the obvious and left Chris Fitzpatrick's alt-rock bravado and Bruce Chandling's tragicomic desperation off the screen; instead, the debut movie from the Good Neighbor masterminds is even better. In fact, it's sure to stand as one of 2017's most unique films.
Mooney stars as James, a mid-20s man filled with the childlike optimism that Mooney plays so well. The reason for his happy naïveté is surprisingly dark, however — he was abducted at birth by the cultish Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams). To keep him occupied, he spends his sheltered life enjoying the teachings of a fictional television character.
When he's not doling out life advice and math lessons, Brigsby Bear travels through dimensions and fights all sorts of mythical creatures in a fully developed fictional world. However, when James is rescued from his captors, we soon learn that no one else has ever heard of Brigsby Bear — it was a fake show created by Ted to keep James occupied. Rather than let it go and enjoy real-life pop culture (including a zany hockey coach movie starring Tim Heidecker), James decides to make a Brigsby Bear movie of his own.
While we watch James experience his first beer and learn the "dope as shit" lingo of the present day, there are times when Brigsby Bear feels a little like an updated E.T.-like creature feature. With its dedication to unbridled creativity, the film also shares beats with Be Kind Rewind. Then there are the actual "Brigsby Bear" episodes, which pair '80s and '90s Teddy Ruxpin/Rock-afire Explosion vibes with a Mighty Boosh aesthetic. There are plenty of scenes that will remind you of other things, but for the most part, Brigsby Bear is unlike anything else you've seen before.
Decidedly earnest and undeniably twee, those expecting Mooney's subversive meta-comedy might be disappointed. But make no mistake: Brigsby Bear is destined to become a feverishly adored cult classic. Here's hoping we can get some full episodes of the show as well.