The Beaver – a story about a woebegone man who begins to reassemble the shambles of his once-thriving life with the assistance of a toy puppet – sounds… interesting and quirky enough in its own right, but the fact that it stars Mel Gibson very much prevented the film from reaching theaters this year.

Now Summit Entertainment has at last set an official release date for actress/director Jodie Foster’s Beaver movie, which will begin a limited theatrical run on March 23rd, 2011 and then expand wider on April 8th.

While The Beaver is very much an unconventional dramedy in its own right, Gibson’s public meltdown over the past couple of years has discouraged studios from signing on to distribute the film. Things started to turn around for the project a few months back, when Gibson’s performance began generating Oscar buzz amongst those who had seen it. An official trailer was released a couple of weeks ago and with it came the news that Summit executives had finally selected a tentative date to put The Beaver out in theaters.

It’s difficult to assess just how well The Beaver will do at the box office at this point. There’s little doubt that Gibson’s part in the film will put off certain ticket buyers, but the Oscar-winner’s willingness to tackle a self-deprecating role that very much parallels his own experiences in the limelight could generate sympathy and interest amongst a lot of moviegoers as well.

Foster, Gibson, and 'The Beaver'.

Fellow Oscar-winner Foster costars as Gibson’s frustrated wife, while Star Trek‘s Anton Yelchin plays his son. Both are generally solid performers in their own right, but Gibson’s leading turn in the film is quite likely to overshadow them – not only due to the controversy concerning his personal life, but also because this will only be the actor’s second credited onscreen performance in seven years.

It can be quite difficult to separate an artist’s creative output from their real-life behavior, but Gibson could very well resuscitate his career should The Beaver be well-received. Case in point – jokes about Christian Bale’s obscenity-fueled rant on the set of Terminator: Salvation have become virtually extinct since he started collecting accolades left and right for his performance in The Fighter. It seems he and the film community weren’t done professionally after all. ;-)

Are you planning to check out The Beaver when it arrives in theaters next spring? If you can’t catch the March 23rd limited release in your area, you’ll have to wait for the April 8th wide release.