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Brigsby Bear (free)

  • Madison Public Library, Hawthorne Branch 2707 East Washington Avenue Madison, WI, 53704 United States (map)

SNL’s Kyle Mooney co-wrote and stars in this surreal but tender 2017 film. Info

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In the energetically weird Sundance sensation Brigsby Bear, Kyle Mooney’s hair is full of secrets. The SNL cast member co-wrote the 2017 film and stars in it as James Pope, a wide-eyed, bushy-haired young man who has lived all his life in a remote desert bunker. Despite the enigmatic, survivalist backdrop, the bunker turns out to be a cozy home, where the overgrown James’ main concern is celebrating and binge-watching an obscure '90s-style children’s adventure show titled Brigsby Bear. (To grasp the Brigsby aesthetic, imagine the soft, slow-blinking animatronic eyes of Barney but on a bear character who teams up with twin girls dressed like Zenon: Girl Of The 21st Century to fight Power Rangers villains.)

Everything changes when James loses access to new episodes of his beloved show and is forced to embark on a quest to understand his world, the show’s creators, and, ultimately, himself. Brigsby Bear’s trailers are purposefully vague, so I’ll leave the plot summary there, as the story’s evolution is best experienced with little foreknowledge. However, I can assure you that viewers will be treated to a rich, off-kilter Mark Hamill (Star Wars) performance, enorm ously fun B-movie aesthetics, the most wholesome tale of an art project bringing people together since Sing Street, and a surprisingly thoughtful rumination on what to do when the people and things you trusted to teach and protect you let you down. 

Brigsby Bear’s real-world backstory is also surprisingly sweet. Mooney co-wrote the film with his middle school best friend Kevin Costello and then had their other middle school bud, Dave McCary (Epic Rap Battles Of History) direct the thing. The film was produced by the Lonely  Island, the astoundingly busy team of Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and Jorma Taccone, who’ve racked up credits from the buddy comedy Neighbors to Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping to beloved tv sitcoms Brooklyn 99 and Pen15

All of these creators' major works tend to combine sophomoric humor with fraught, emotive bonds and Brigsby Bear is no different, but never has their love of teamwork, movie-making, and goofy battle choreography been paired with such an explosively surreal and tender story. Brigsby is a chapter worth catching in the ongoing careers of some of modern comedy’s silliest luminaries. —Kailee Andrews