Brigsby Bear

All television is educational television.  The question is:  what is it teaching?  ~Nicholas Johnson

We have all heard of the discoveries of people who were abducted and then found years later. Many have a short time in the unwanted spotlight of the public but usually they fade into the obscurity of history. The general populace is interested in their story as long as they can get a glimpse into the world of these atrocities. Brigsby Bear takes the story to the next stage in the process. It shows the world of James Pope (Kyle Mooney) and how he adapts to life after living in seclusion for 25 years and then being exposed to the real world.

James and his parents live in a geo-dome outside the watchful eye of the world. This secluded home is the only life that James has ever known, but Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams) assure their son that they are safer underground than out in the contaminated world. Within his existence that includes exceptional boredom and continual studies, the young man’s physical needs are taken care of, and he has Brigsby Bear. The multiple episodes of the children’s show give James solace, entertainment and comradery throughout his subterranean life.

Then one night their home is invaded by the local police department, and James’ life changes forever. He has to come to the traumatic reality that Ted and April are not his real parents. While wrestling with this truth, what is even more devastating is that The  Brigsby Bear Adventures was made solely for him by Ted and there will no more episodes. James must come to terms with these huge lifestyle changes and consider what he is going to do to save himself and his favourite bear.

For audiences who are still working through the trauma of 2016’s Room, it may be hard to consider laughing through the experience of a recently released abductee. Brigsby Bear may prove to be needed therapy. Mooney and Costello’s script is respectful of all parties involved in this story and proves to be a heartwarming journey as James adapts to life’s reality.

The innovative trio of Mooney, McCray and Costello have managed to begin their independent film careers with a strong script and power packed cast. With Mark Hamill, Claire Danes, Greg Kinnear and Andy Sandberg on board with the project, this little indie film comes with quite a pedigree. Each star manages to add to the picture without overpowering the focus on the central character or by distracting from the engaging storyline. Rooney manages to hold his own on screen by portraying the innocence and drive that James needs to work through the trauma he experienced.

The advantage of releasing this film as an independent production allows for some of the weaknesses to be excused or glossed over in the name of art. The special effects and some of the staging has the feel of a local teen production, but that merely adds to the quaintness of the overall experience. Even the age difference between James and most of his friends manages to move past the creepiness factor, because of his psychological situation. 
Brigsby Bear
is far from a perfect film, but it does offer a winning combination of compassion and character development that makes for an enjoyable entertainment choice this season.

Even with the focus of Brigsby Bear has on children’s programming, this film is for mature audiences only. 

REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 

Imagination: the faculty of forming mental images or concepts of what is not actually present to the senses.

One of the blessings of life is the gift of the imagination. Even without entertainment at our fingertips or when life moves into a state of boredom, having the ability to bring up images and thoughts allows us to survive this existence. From the limitless well of the creative process come songs, stories and dreams which have been part of the human experience since the beginning of time.

Some say that certain people are more imaginative than others, but this reality does not diminish the fact that all of mankind was given this gift. At times, it does get used for less than redeeming results and some minds draw from darker wells than others, but this does not minimise the power it offers. The human imagination exposes the psychological and spiritual aspects of life can only be attributed to God.

The question is what are you doing with your imagination? Is it to honour the one who has given you this gift?

‘And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.’ Genesis 11:6 

‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’ Philippians 4:8

Trailer for the film

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.