Director: Dave McCary
Screenwriters: Kevin Costello and Kyle Mooney
Runtime: 97 mins.
Australian Release Date: 26 October 2017
Previewed at: Sony Pictures Theatrette, Sydney, on 17 August 2017.
It’s not often that you see a film that you don’t think you’ve seen before or, at least, some part of it or something like it. After all, ‘they say’ that there are only seven scripts. Then along comes Dave McCary’s feature film debut Brigsby Bear, a highly original movie that’ll have you thinking, ‘maybe there are eight.’ From a screenplay by debutante writers Kevin Costello and Kyle Mooney (who also stars), this off-the-wall creation is a charmer about a child/man completely obsessed with a whacky children’s TV show also called Brigsby Bear. The lessons he has learnt from the series inform his every action, governing his entire world-view. Little wonder then that his life is shattered when the show comes to an abrupt end because, as we and he soon find out, it’s the only show he’s ever seen!
When we meet 25-year-old James Pope (Kyle Mooney), he’s living a highly structured, but secluded life, with Ted (Mark Hamill) and April Mitchum (Jane Adams) in an isolated location that’s ‘off-the-grid.’ His only entertainment comes from viewing the night sky and the weekly arrival of a new episode of Brigsby Bear. One night outsiders arrive, Ted and April are taken away and James’ life is abruptly overturned. Suddenly, he’s a stranger in a strange land and, to make matters worse, no-one in this new world seems to know anything about Brigsby. Shattered, he decides that the only thing to do is to make the series himself and for this he’s going to need help.
“Brigsby Bear is a film about friendship, family, and nostalgia, which makes sense because it was made by three friends who went to middle school [in San Diego] together,” explains Mooney. “Although Kevin Costello moved out of town after eighth grade, the movie was a perfect vehicle for us to reunite and start a collaboration in adulthood.” He and McCary worked together for some time making short films in LA, eventually landing jobs at Saturday Night Live, and when Costello arrived in town a few years later to pursue a career as a writer, it was only natural that the three would get back together again. Mooney continues, “The movie is our first collaboration, but the transition into a working relationship wasn't really a transition at all - it felt like an extension of the conversation about movies and culture we'd been having for years.” Their unconventional screenplay took about three years to complete but they knew it wasn’t going to be easy to find producers willing to take on such a crazy story from first-time writers. Luckily though, they found not one but two sets of admirers who were sympathetic to their novel ideas and one of them was the hot-shot duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller of 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie fame. The rest as ‘they say’ (there ‘they’ are again), is history.
Brigsby Bear will certainly not be to everyone’s taste but will definitely appeal to people who look back fondly at the seminal children’s programs of their youth; it’s amazing how those series stay with you and how influential they can end up being. But of course, there’s more to the film than that - it’s also about the importance of friendship and the transition we all have to make from childhood to maturity. Let’s not get too serious about it though because, at the end of the day, this whimsical movie is a lot of fun once you stop scratching your head and run with it. The last word should go to Kyle Mooney, who states, “We tried our best to keep everything grounded and honest within Brigsby Bear. We felt like there was inherent humour in the script and wanted to try and play it real, as if this whole thing really happened. Anyway, hope you like it.”