By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
The Beaver promised to be one of those unmissable cinematic bizarrities that come down the pipe every so often. Mel Gibson, fresh off of dousing his career in gasoline and tossing a road flare at it, takes a role that involves him talking about his problems via a beaver hand puppet? In a cockney accent no less? The very definition of a must-see.
How could this not make like $100 mill?
Well, The Beaver is a very different film than what you would expect, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Gibson is a toy company executive who is trapped in a crippling depression that is destroying his relationship with his wife and family. He’s driven to suicide and is “saved” by that beaver hand puppet we mentioned earlier, which he uses to create space between his personality and the world at large. There’s a side plot between his son (Anton Yelchin) and a cheerleader (Jennifer Lawrence) with a complex past, but this is pretty much the Mel Gibson show.
I’d watch it
The acting across the board is very good, and Yelchin and Lawrence do a good job making a mildly superfluous subplot highly watchable. However, Mel Gibson is the real juggernaut here, delivering a performance that I have no issues tagging as one of the few best of his career. He sells a depressed individual on his last legs, and his transformation through the puppet is so convincing that you get used to the beaver on his hand fairly quickly (high praise indeed).
I also have to praise Jodie Foster’s direction, which is improving with every film she does. She delivers a good looking, well-paced flick full of indy trappings that teeters on the right side of cliché.
A final raise of the glass to embracing the ridiculousness of the concept and running with it. This ranges from a Gibson/Beaver/Foster threesome that’s every bit as strange as it should be to the climax of the film, where Gibson and The Beaver literally fight for control.
A climax nearly as gory as Jimmy Stewart “disappearing” poorHarvey
The main thing that holds the film back is a script that loses its sense for natural sounding dialogue from time to time and compensates with cheesy, eyebrow-raising lines. This generally occurs when they’re trying to add a little light humor or display family harmony.
This leads to the other issue I had with the film- it’s hard to buy at times. Gibson + Beaver really turn things around awful fast with the family, but what stuck in my craw was his professional resurrection. His inherited toy company goes from near-bankrupt to some sort of national sensation on the back of a lame-looking, beaver-shaped woodworking kit… for children.
What? Of course he’s old enough!
This wasn’t the fascinating, head-craning, car wreck I was expecting, but it ends up being a very solid, well-acted film.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Yelchin sighs or bitches about his dad
Take a Drink: every time Gibson stares blankly
Drink a Shot: whenever The Beaver becomes threatening
Bonus Shotgun: when Gibson gives the tv a drink