‘The Beaver’ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated May 21st, 2011 at 11:00 pm,

The Beaver Review The Beaver Review

Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews The Beaver

The Beaver, much like the film’s protagonist, has been hiding from the ugly realities of life for the last six months – after a seemingly never-ending font of bad press for star Mel Gibson.

A lot of early industry murmurs focused on the parallels between the actor and his equally self-destructive character in the film. The comparisons are certainly interesting but, without the controversy, can The Beaver stand on its own two feet as one of the better indie offerings in a summer chock-full of high profile superhero films?

Fortunately, the answer is yes. While it’s certainly hard to fully ignore some of the more on-the-nose moments of actor/character crossover (specifically a disheveled-looking Gibson pouring Vodka on a television screen), The Beaver still manages to direct the audience away from the controversy and to the story at hand – that of clinically depressed Walter Black, family man and CEO of a flailing toy company, who spends the majority of his days asleep, on medications, or sleeping because of all the medications.

It’s at Walter’s lowest moment that the titular beaver puppet comes into the picture. The Beaver allows Walter to take back his life by speaking for him (in a British accent) and offering a safe distance between the ups and downs of everyday living: his failing company, estranged wife and resentful teenager – as well as his youngest son, who is routinely overlooked. However, even as Walter finds new life and success hiding behind The Beaver, it isn’t long before he realizes that while he may be up walking around, the Walter he wants to be still needs to wake-up.

On paper, a story like The Beaver could be laughable (we won’t even get into the title) but coupled with some thoughtful and compelling direction from Jodie Foster, Gibson delivers an especially charming and believable performance. Some of more traditionally challenging scenes, where an actor has to engage in a back and forth with an inanimate object, are surprisingly successful – with subtle adjustments to his expression, Gibson breathes life into both The Beaver as well as the heartbreakingly empty and submissive Walter.

The Beaver Jodie Foster Mel Gibson The Beaver Review

Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson in 'The Beaver'

Similarly, Gibson and Foster (through the actor’s performance and the director’s composition) give The Beaver an actual physical presence – without it coming across as a gimmick. The puppet doesn’t just make things awkward for the characters, it genuinely helps to draw-out subtle emotions in the supporting cast as well as add an exclamation point to already complicated (or humorous) situations.

Foster, who has been somewhat off the grid the last five years, works double-duty on the film as Walter’s wife Meredith and delivers a great counter-point to Gibson’s closed-off and non-adversarial character. Similarly, the film spends a significant amount of time following the story of Walter’s older son, Porter (Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin) as he attempts to purge himself of any resemblance to his father before he heads-off to college at Brown University.

The film does a good job of providing a reason for the time dedicated to Porter’s story – and the side-narrative also gives the audience a well-deserved break from the main plot as well as brings in characters we wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to see, specifically Norah (played by Jennifer Lawrence). Despite the fact that Norah isn’t directly affected by Walter’s shenanigans, she helps mirror his inner struggle – as she wrestles with her own inability to face the challenges of life. To their credit, both Lawrence and Yelchin offer-up great performances and manage to keep their senior-year storyline from falling into the same campy geek guy/popular girl conventions of a lot of films.

The performances and execution in The Beaver are on-point; however, the film is not without a few shortcomings. In general, the movie successfully chronicles Walter’s journey of self-acceptance and discovery, but at times gets bogged down in some over-the-top story beats that come across “cartoony” and could remind audiences of the overly-absurd set-up – the same one the actors have worked so hard to keep grounded and real.

Mel Gibson The Beaver The Beaver Review

The Beaver has a quiet moment with Henry

The Beaver is at its best when it stays grounded, because the characters (and subsequently the performances) are deep and interesting – but once in awhile the filmmakers must have felt as though audiences needed more. An example: when one of Walter’s toy creations becomes a smash hit, it isn’t enough to just see the sold-out store shelves – The Beaver himself has to become a cultural icon for audiences to get that the puppet can’t actually bring about a true recovery.

Similarly, while the film succeeds in earning its emotional climax, The Beaver doesn’t exactly handle Walter’s descent into madness as carefully (or convincingly) as it needs to in order for the dramatic climax to be equally successful. Instead, while the final act of the film is certainly compelling from moment to moment, it’s not as carefully crafted as what came before, ultimately rocketing the main plot forward while leaving some story threads unresolved.

A few slips in the build-up of the overarching narrative  still can’t undercut the captivating performances, engaging characters, and great thematic material explored in the film. The Beaver is a unique and thoughtful project that showcases a charming, as well as unconventional, character journey. And, despite how you feel about the man, it’s also one of Gibson’s best roles to date.

If you’re still on the fence about The Beaver, check out the trailer below:

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick — and let us know what you thought of the film below.

The Beaver is now playing in wide release.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5

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  1. So what’s so funny about the title The Beaver, Ben? Come on, tell me! I dare you! :-)

    Very well-written analysis. It will be interesting to see how this will hold up to the 3 titans (Thor, Fast 5, Pirates).

    • No one us perfect in their personal lives! We only know what’s being reported, we DO NOT know Mel! We only know he is a great actor and director! The rest is non of our business!

      • Also, I am bot happy not one of the thwarted near me is showing this movie, I was looking forward to seeing!!

      • So sick of the argument that we all make mistakes or none of us are perfect.

        It’s so not the same. I’m not perfect I’m a bit stubborn and overly blunt that it offends some people. I always speak my midn and rarely censor my self. I’m so blunt and honest that it’s often considered rude. I’m highly opinionated.

        However, I don’t make racial slurs about jewish people or black men. I don’t drink and drive. Those things are awful and are hardly comparable with simple mistakes or being imperfect. One is not only illegal and could get someone killed but the others are terribly offensive and wrong. There is not justification for it. He is also a woman beater. Which is hurtful to other people and illegal and extremely wrong.

        Then again I forgot to take out the trash this morning. That was a mistake if you ask my girl friend. Must be equal.

  2. No surprise here. It’s Mel freakin’ Gibson. Did anyone expect a bad performance? Look, is Mel an idiot in his personal life sometimes? Yes. But there are other actors I despise more for different reasons, but that doesn’t stop me from seeing their movies either. So I am looking forward to this, hopefully it plays in my area.

    • I agree INK. As a person I hate Mel he is trash, but as an actor the guy always delivers and he makes it very easy to seperate one from the other because he is to damn good to miss.

    • I agree. Remember what Alec Baldwin did to his own child a couple years ago? 30Rock is still ( for some unknown reason ) on and kicking!! People should understand to err is human. When you deal with so much that is commonly broken down into its base Race component, your bound to have some frustration. Do you really think the President doesnt talk smack about “whitey” while noone else is listening, You are more naive then him if you do!! At our Core, people are competitive and Petty. Some just hide it better than others is all.

  3. Um… Yah… Still not going to see this…

    First of all, the story or the characters do not interest me one bit. And secondly I think Jodie Foster is as crazy as this story sounded on paper. Not to mention a hypocrite… No thanks, only way I’ll be watching this is if pirated because I choose not to support anything by her…

  4. I was curious about this movie from the moment I first read about it. Now after reading this review, I’m pretty sure I’ll go and see it.

  5. I still think Mel is a good actor, he simply isnt good with real life. While this may be a good movie I will have to pass since it is not the genre I am interested in.

  6. I saw it, and it’s very, very good. Totally agree with the reviewer. Proof that Mel should’nt be kept from the screen because of his private life.

  7. I’ve been a fan of Mel Gibson for years. We all have personal problems and struggles; sadly his were on display for the entire world. But we are all flawed and I think those flaws help actors such as Mel to bring forth some amazing performances. As an actor myself I just hope I can keep my skeletons in the closet. This looks like a great character study for Mel and I’m anxious to see what he does with it.

  8. Thoughtful balanced analysis, Ben. Excellent review.

    I suspected this would be good but not without its faults.
    Jodie has not directed much and that may explain part of it.

    Jodie standing by her friend Mel displays great character.
    She is not one to blindly do so and there is a lesson there.
    A lesson about remaining a friend when a friend is down and
    evidence there is more to Mel than salacious headlines reveal.

    As for how to think about Mel, a favorite actor of mine,
    I think Jim Caviezel said it best in a talk he gave recently:

    ‘Mel Gibson, he’s a horrible sinner, isn’t he?’ Caviezel said.
    ‘Mel Gibson doesn’t need your judgment, he needs your prayers.’

  9. this is definitely one of those movies that would be forgettable without the main actor’s performance. if mel gibson doesn’t score an oscar for this I’ll be suprised

    • Get ready to be surprised

  10. I’m so glad this got a good review from you guys. I loved the movie. Mel’s the sh*t. I agree with Words, he has to win some award for this, he was fantastic juggling those two characters. Some of those scenes looked impossible to do and he did them essentially twice with believability.

    PS – Ben, his accent was Australian, not British.

    • @ Alex

      Was that confirmed in the film (I honestly can’t remember)? I’ve heard arguments for both accents – but nothing official either way.

  11. Mel Gibbson may be a terrible person (He is) and deserve all manner of bad things, but he is a damn fine actor. As a human I am ashamed to breathe the same air as the guy. However, I can seperate the person from their craft. If I skipped films by actors that I thought were Pieces of crap I’d miss a lot of movies.

    I’ve been waiting for this one for a long time now through all the delays it looks good glad to see the review.

    • Well, Mel can’t be worse than some of our politicians & some of our over glorified sports figures that seem to get away with practically everything short of murder. Not to mention true monsters in human form that lurk among us who do get away with murder, then apparently get to profit from it (Yeah, what a world we live in these days). So some gold digger incited behaviors in the man to give herself 15 minutes of fame at Mel’s expense. Go figure. How many of us don’t wander off the beaten path at times in our journey through life? Who among us if any can lay claim to sterling perfection? It’s what we learn from our mistakes & find in ourselves along the way that makes growth possible & you’re never too old to learn from your mistakes. Mel deserves as much of a 2nd chance as Tiger Woods, or Kobe Bryant, & if anyone here’s perfect, then feel free to cast your stones.

      • We have all made mistakes I’ve said it several times. None of mine have been violence toward women or use of racial slurs. Nor have they been horrible racist out bursts.

        Mel didn’t simply ‘stray from the beaten path’ he showed who he was at his core. A violent, racist, drunk. He is simply a terrible person. You don’t accidentally become a racist who abuses women.

        He doesn’t deserve a second chance because he has already had one. He’s had several chances. This isn’t a single incident he has a history of this behavior and has simply proven him self to be a drunken violent racist.

        It’s not that we are perfect it’s simply that we are better than him. I’ve made my mistakes none of them however, are as bad as his.

  12. Great review. I will be catching this film soon. Mel Gibson is great at his craft.

  13. The film was supposed to open nationwide today but its not playing anywhere near me, argh!

    • You are not alone.
      I live in Manhattan, New York.
      It is not playing were I live on the Upper West Side.

      This NEVER happens. Not even in limited releases which this is not.

      And according to Fandango it is playing
      in one theater in all of New York City.

      You have to wonder if distributors are
      working against Mel and his film.

      • No surprise. Considering who runs Hollywood.

      • Nah, its the box office and viewers having little interest in this film preventing it from expanding.

    • It was in my town for 2 weeks and then was gone. I saw it the second day with my girlfriend.

      You aren’t missing anything.

  14. Almost sounds like Mel took the role to regain some sympathy from the Joe Q’s out there. (Sic)

  15. This just goes to show you that a great actor is a great actor, no matter how crazy he is. Does this mean I am going to support him? No. Sorry, Mel, no offense, but you and other actors out there have got to learn that your personal life DOES have a bearing on your professional one. Crazy is crazy and I will not support Mel or any movie he is in again. We will always have Lethal Weapon and thats good enough for me. We have GOT to stop rewarding the elite for bad behavior. I dont care how good they are.

  16. This is why I can’t take this site seriously. You give Green Lantern a 1.5, but you give this snuff film a 4?

    If I wanted to watch Mel Gibson acting crazy, I’d put it on E News.

    Mel Gibson as an actor is just a shadow of what he was 12 years ago. He just doesn’t have it anymore.

    And don’t get me started on Jodie Foster. After her tiring performance in “Nim’s Island” and “The Brave One”, I can’t tolerate her in anything.

  17. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but Natalie Portman’s mental breakdown in “Black Swan” was a far superior performance than Mel Gibson acting ridiculous in “The Beaver.”

  18. This movie BOMBED!!!

    • T6hought Bubble

      Technically it didn’t bomb because it never even got a chance to make money it was only released in a little over 100 theaters. Your average film is released in to well over 2K theaters. It actually did pretty well considering how few theaters it was released in to. That was just it’s widest release. Opening day it was only in 22 theaters. It actually opened moderately well as far as theater count to gross ratio goes. It was making roughly 1.5K per theater a day. The problem wasn’t the film it was the small release of the film. With a proper release it could of theoretically easily made it’s budget back and turned a small profit.

  19. Great movie. Gibson might be a jerk or the stupid victim of a malicious woman yet he’s a great actor.
    And this is a great movie no matter what is surrounding it.