Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 40 min.
Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 7; Language 7; Sex/Nudity 5.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.
Although it bears a slight resemblance to Lenny Abrahamson’s 2015 film Room, this new story of a kidnapped child raised in captivity is an almost goofy comedy rather than a serious drama. 25-year-old James (Mooney) has spent all his conscious life living in a small bunker watched over by what he assumes are his parents Ted and April Mitchum (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams). He is told that the air outside is toxic, so there is no going out. His only contact with the outside world is a children’s TV show “Brigsby Bear Adventures,” a fantasy with cheesy effects in which Brigsby is constantly saving the world. His father has videotaped over 700 episodes.
Then comes the bewildering day when police raid the bunker. Detective Vogel (Greg Kinnear) informs him that the Mitchums had kidnapped him years ago, and that his real parents, Greg and Louise Pope (Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins) have been looking for him all these years.
James is unimpressed with his new family, even as his sister Aubrey (Ryan Simpkins) is not overly impressed with him. However, she does introduce him to friends at school, one of whom, Meredith (Alexa Demie), seeks to introduce him to the pleasures of sex. While his parents try to cope with the task of reintroducing their lost son into the life of their family, James finds acceptance from such younger teens as Spencer (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), whose filmmaking skills are soon put to use when James decides he must make a film that completes the story of his beloved Brigsby Bear. Even Dect. Vogel plays an important part in this because all the tapes and props for Brigsby are locked away in the evidence room of the police department. The making of the movie turns into a project that brings unity to all concerned and the hope that James will somehow make it in his new world.
Dave McCary co-wrote the screenplay with Kevin Costello. Together they have created a world that one reviewer has compared to Lars and the Real World, one in which kind-hearted people accept an odd-ball and help him to find his niche in their world. James’ obsession with Brigsby Bear somewhat resembles the Psalmist’s reliance about God as “my rock and my salvation.” We can hope that the young man will move on to a more mature reliance. (Does Linus ever give up his blanket?)
If you are looking for a gentle comedy that affirms that acceptance can help us overcome a terrible experience, this might be your movie.
This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the October issue of Visual Parables.