James (Kyle Mooney) has spent his life in this bunker thanks to the toxic climate outside, and his parents Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams) are the only people he has spoken to in all that time. He does, however, have an internet connection to other survivors, and they use this to discuss their favourite television show, Brigsby Bear, which James has delivered to him via videocassettes to play in his room. He has become quite the expert on this science fiction production, where the titular bear has magical adventures fighting the evil Snatcher and teaming up with his allies, but an upheaval is about to occur in James' existence which will scupper his chances of completing it...
There was a lot going on beneath the surface of this fable like effort that was not really a science fiction movie as those first ten minutes might have indicated, for it quickly becomes apparent our hero has been sold a lie for the past couple of decades. When the police turn up, he has to come to the realisation that the couple who said they were his parents are nothing of the sort, they have in fact kidnapped him at a young age and brainwashed him into believing the outside world is a hostile place where he will be in peril should he venture out into it. He may be in peril, but no more than anyone else making their way through life, though his background has damaged him mentally.
Therefore you knew where you were, a comedian (Mooney) playing a manchild who struggles with the world and has to be helped through it by those kind enough to lend a hand, see anything from Being There to Blast from the Past for different methods of delivering this sort of tale. Yet the television show that has become James' whole life added a different dimension; although it was completely manufactured by Ted who duped the small crew working on it into believing it was a production for Canadian television (these recreations of the part innocent, part creepy results were very well done by director Dave McCary). It has been such a major aspect of his incarceration that James cannot give it up.
With that in mind, and on finding there are no more episodes and therefore no conclusion to the multi-story saga, the survivor decides to take matters into his own hands and finish it himself, using his sister Aubrey (Ryan Simpkins) and her friends as cast and crew. There was a lot to accept here, which made the need for a fantastical, not quite realistic air all the more important, and McCary managed to an extent, though start to ask questions like, where did Ted and April get the funds to create their bunker, and more importantly, for what possible reason, and the confection began to deflate somewhat. This indicated it was best to keep such queries to yourself until at least the film, brought into being by the Lonely Island troupe, was over and you could think back on it and go, "Wait a minute...!" since asking part the way through would find it had a serious credulity issue.
On the other hand, take it as an allegory of the creative spirit under, shall we say, problematic circumstances, and Brigsby Bear grew more interesting. There seemed to be various motives at work here, most obviously the way appreciation of a series like Star Trek can become an obsession: this was ambivalent, or ambiguous anyway, as to the merits of losing your life to concentrating on pop culture, and if James was any indication it was breeding countless emotionally stunted adults. Then there was the process itself, reminiscent of the cult band The Shaggs, sisters who were forced to form a band by their father without ever hearing what pop music was, entertaining until you think on the details. Going further, it mused on how far you can enjoy a work of art or throwaway entertainment alike when you knew the creators were not exactly great people: if you've ever wondered if you can possibly appreciate a Roman Polanski movie again then much in this would chime with you. So plenty to think on, but it was more effective in its contemplation than its drama, or indeed its comedy. Music by David Wingo.