Imaginative comedy a must for audiences who like it a little weird
Some movies are so universal in their appeal that nearly everyone should see them.
Then there are the movies that have a limited audience, landing in the bizarre overlap of an unlikely Venn diagram. But that limited audience should absolutely make a point to see them.
I've tried to manage both approaches as a film critic over the years, but this might be a good time to remind you that I picked “Swiss Army Man,” the (at least to me) tragically underseen, heartfelt comedy about a man's adventures with a farting corpse, as my top movie of 2016.
“Brigsby Bear” may be my entry in that camp for 2017. While it won't be topping my best-films list, it's one of the most unique films of the year, and it has some great touchpoints with other similarly oddball movies.
Here's a purposely vague overview of the story to preserve the surprises.
We meet 20-something James Pope (Kyle Mooney), a fan obsessed with a live-action children's television program called “Brigsby Bear Adventures.”
His room has a massive collection of “Brigsby Bear” episodes on VHS. He participates in a very old-school chat room discussing the intricacies of each character and plot. He sleeps beneath a poster of the titular bear with the words “CURIOSITY IS AN UNNATURAL EMOTION.”
It's revealed James lives with his parents (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams) in a mostly underground bunker. Then it's revealed that “Brigsby Bear Adventures,” James' singular life obsession, is not what it appears to be.
“Brigsby Bear” is directed by “Saturday Night Live” alum Dave McCary and produced by the guys in the Lonely Island (Andy Samberg appears late in the film), and that sort of whimsical silliness abounds. Its humor is offbeat, but hits more than it misses.
Mooney is outstanding in the lead, making James both isolated in his own world of imagination but also human and relatable. And he's got great support, including Greg Kinnear and Claire Danes.
But, for me, what elevates “Brigsby” is it does this whimsy with darker edges. “Swiss Army Man” is a good touchstone, but there are also some themes that overlap with a very different kind of move in 2015's “Room.”
So file this one in my “not for everyone” category, yes, but also as one of my top recommendations this year.