By Mary Sollosi
January 24, 2017 at 10:26 PM EST
Sundance

It may have been Utah on a Monday afternoon, but it felt like New York on Saturday night when Brigsby Bear, co-written by and starring SNL player Kyle Mooney, premiered at Sundance this week.

Directed by first-time feature helmer Dave McCary (a founding member of the Good Neighbor comedy sketch troupe along with Mooney and Beck Bennett, who also appears in the film) and co-written by Mooney and Kevin Costello, the comedy follows James (Mooney), a young man who grows up in an excessively, unnaturally sheltered environment where his only entertainment and the sole passion of his life is the fictional ‘80s children’s TV series Brigsby Bear. When forced to leave the place in which he grew up and assimilate to our world, he discovers that nobody else knows about Brigsby, so he seeks to share it with everyone he meets, and to make a movie sequel to the show that means so much to him.

“We were all kind of obsessed — Dave [McCary] and I, and Kevin [Costello] — with ‘80s and ‘90s children’s TV shows,” Mooney said of the quirky premise at the Q&A following the premiere. “It was just an idea about a kid, and then we expanded it, and tried to add humor and drama and suspense.”

The cast members in attendance were effusive in their praise of the highly original script. “I saw this movie was trying to be different,” said Jorge Lendeborg Jr., who plays James’ friend Spencer, “and not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of being great.”

“I read [the script] and it was like the most creative thing I had ever read,” said Ryan Simpkins, who plays James’ sister Aubrey. “It’s really a movie about passionate, nerdy people doing passionate, nerdy things.”

In a brilliant piece of casting, Mark Hamill plays the overprotective father who raises James on Brigsby in isolation. “I like scripts that you can’t categorize easily,” the Star Wars icon said at the premiere. “Your agent will call and say, ‘I have a script, it’s Die Hard in a supermarket.’ Whatever. It’s always compared to something else. I read this thing and I thought, ‘this is really original.’”

And while he’s best known for his adventures in a galaxy far, far away, Hamill loved the opportunity to get laughs. “I love comedy and I love satire,” he said. “I’d never worked with any of the Saturday Night Live people, and I’m old enough to have remembered the very first episode with George Carlin, and I stayed with it all through the years, all the casts.” Better still, Brigsby has heart as well as humor: ”I thought it was really poignant, on so many levels, because it’s the fantasy world he lives in and yet, the cruel realities of our real lives just collide in a way that I’d never seen before,” Hamill added.

And the last appealing factor that convinced Hamill Brigsby was worth his time? “I had lines,” the actor said. “No hood removal.”

Brigsby Bear has not yet been acquired by a distributor.

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