A serious contender for the best film of 2017, the only way to watch Dave McCary’s Brigsby Bear is the way it was made: with a completely open heart. James (Kyle Mooney) is a sheltered 20-something whose life revolves around a Welcome to Pooh Corner-style children’s program called Brigsby Bear Adventures. (This 40-something critic wrote a scholarly monograph about My Little Pony, and her home is decorated accordingly, so she’s in no position to judge.) A traumatic change in James’ life inspires him to make his own Brigsby Bear film, and to go into any more detail would be to spoil the movie’s surprises.
Brigsby Bear (McCary’s film, not the film within the film) has some structural similarities to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, though with much darker undertones, being less about a man-child whose world is a live-action cartoon world than a man-child who relates to a very real world via a live-action cartoon. The phrase “dope as shit” is repeated to the point of mantra, which speaks to the film’s inherent sweetness. But not only is Brigsby Bear not rated R, it’s only PG-13 for “thematic elements, brief sexuality, drug material, and teen partying” — and not language. Hopefully, that rare moment of MPAA clarity will help Brigsby Bear find the audience it deserves, for it is indeed dope as shit.
Opens Friday at the Century San Francisco Centre 9 and the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.