Brigsby Bear is a 2017 American Independent Drama-Comedy. Based on a story by Kyle Mooney (who also stars), the film was directed by his fellow member of the Good Neighbor comedy troupe Dave McCary (his feature film directorial debut), with script by Mooney and Kevin Costello. It hit Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2017, and saw wider release on July 28 of the same year.
The movie centers on James, a college-aged man who lives an unusual life. He lives in an underground bunker with his parents, Ted and April (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams), staying safe from the irradiated wasteland above-ground. He spends his days working on math theory, but his true passion lies in watching and dissecting his favorite show (the only one they get in the bunker), 'Brigsby Bear', a long-running Space Opera about a bear using magic and science to fight the evil Sunsnatcher.
Except that's all a lie. Ted and April aren't his parents, they simply kidnapped him out of the hospital as a baby and constructed the bunker as an excuse to stay hidden. The story kicks into action when the police arrive to arrest Ted and April and rescue James. He's returned to his real family, including parents Greg and Louise Pope (Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins) and high-school-aged sister Aubrey (Ryan Simpkins), but struggles to adjust to the real-world, including the shocking discovery that 'Brigsby' was written and produced entirely by Ted. Realizing that no one else has heard of his beloved show, James decides to make a movie to share his beloved series with the world and keep busy as he adjusts.
Watch the trailer here.
This film contains examples of these tropes:
- Acting for Two: In-universe, one actress (Whitney) plays both of the Sunshine Sisters.
- Adult Fear: James was kidnapped out of the hospital as a baby, and isn't recovered for over two decades.
- An Aesop: The episodes of Brigsby Bear frequently involve the bear directly addressing the audience (i.e.; James) with didactic lessons.
- Archnemesis: Sunsnatcher, to Brigsby within the show.
- Bad "Bad Acting": The movie Greg and James see in theaters has a bit of this.
- The Cameo:
- The Cast Show Off: Mark Hamill gets to demonstrate his voice acting talents, contributing voices for most of the characters in Brigsby Bear's universe.
- Cringe Comedy: Like a lot of Mooney's other writing, a good deal of the comedy comes from deadpan awkwardness. There's a lot of heartwarming material underneath to keep it from being too alienating, though.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: James has a thing for the Sunshine Sisters. The film cuts away after just enough to get the gist.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Invoked with some of the Bigsby Bear episodes, particularly those that condemn curiosity.
- Evil Sorcerer: Sunsnatcher in the Show Within a Show
- Genius Ditz: James. He studies math at what appears to be a pretty high level, but also has no ability to interact with people for most of the movie.
- Manchild: James is a big of one, as being raised in a bunker his entire life has left him without many social skills. He loves the Brigsby Bear show so much that he made projects on the show and he went on forums to talk about it.
- Nice Guy: Many of the people James meets at the party count.
- Product Placement: Coke. A cop makes a big deal out of giving a large bottle of Coke to James when he arrives at the police station. Detective Vogel drinks from an identical bottle during his lunch break. When James meets Whitney at the diner, he thanks her for "the food and the Coke."
- Punny Name: The villain of the Brigsby Bear show is Sunsnatcher. While this refers to his nature as a celestial being in-story, within the context of creator Ted Mitchum's life, it has a clear second meaning, having "snatched" somebody else's "son."
- Putting the Band Back Together: James goes around looking for the original cast members of the show to help him complete his Brigsby Bear movie.
- Running Gag: James repeating what people say to him when he doesn't know what to do, the phrase "Dope as shit" in particular.
- Show Within a Show: Brigsby Bear, both the show and James's movie attempt.
- Shout-Out: Spencer offers up a number of shout-outs, such as wearing a Star Trek: The Original Series T-shirt and having posters for movies like TRON and The Thing (1982).
- Socially Awkward Hero: James, due to having only ever interacted with his parents.
- Spoof Aesop: Some of the lessons that Ted puts into Brigsby Bear are rather strange and obviously reflective of Ted's warped attempt at parenting. They range from useful things like daily exercise routines, to stranger rules like not masturbating more than twice a day, to obvious attempts at manipulation such as discouraging curiosity.
- Stylistic Suck: Episodes of Brigsby Bear look like low-budget, old-school puppet shows from The '80s. James' finished product is obviously made by amateurs, with very cheap and crude special effects.
- Taking the Heat: When James and Spencer are arrested for the explosive going off, James takes responsibility for everything, including the alcohol and drugs that were collected during the arrest.
- Theme Tune: The in-universe show Brigsby Bear has a pretty good one.
- Write What You Know: In-universe. James's first draft of a Brigsby script involves Brigsby breaking his parents out of jail because he feels they've been wrongly imprisoned.