Brigsby Bear, rated PG-13

Starring Kyle Mooney, Greg Kinnear, Mark Hamill, Jane Adams, Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins, Claire Danes, Andy Samberg

Austin Family Critical Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Austin Family Family-Friendly Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ll admit that Dave McCary’s Brigsby Bear was not on my radar as one of the must-see films of the summer. I walked into the cinema with no expectations, and by the end of the first act, I was already enchanted by the movie.

Kyle Mooney (best known for his work on Saturday Night Live) stars as James Pope, a young man who has lived with his parents Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams) in an underground bunker for as long as he can remember, due to a supposedly contaminated atmosphere on Earth. His chief pleasure comes from watching Brigsby Bear, a children’s television show of which James owns every episode on VHS. But James doesn’t know that the air above ground is not contaminated, Ted and April kidnapped him when he was a baby and are not his real parents, and he is the only person who has ever watched Brigsby Bear – as Ted and April film every episode solely for him.

When FBI agents raid the bunker and James is rescued, he is bewildered by the real world. He is reunited with his real family and expected to adapt to his new surroundings – but most disconcerting to him is the fact that nobody else has heard of (or seen) Brigsby Bear. And so he sets out to make a feature film version of his beloved show.

What makes Brigsby Bear so unexpectedly moving and endearing is the efforts of James’s friends and family to help make his film version of Brigsby Bear possible. In one of the film’s biggest delights, a wonderful Greg Kinnear plays a detective who not only gives James original Brigsby Bear props and costumes from the police department evidence room, but also agrees to act in the film. I left Brigsby Bear feeling a little warmer about the state of things – particularly, in the end, the power of cinema to bring people together.

This film has some small sexual and drug-related references, but it should be appropriate for anyone over the age of 11.

Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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