Cockney-accented beaver-puppets always help get through depression.
Walter Black (Mel Gibson) is at a crossroads that most men at his age come to. He doesn’t know if he’s happy or not, what he wants to do with the rest of his life, and he especially doesn’t know how to talk to those around him. However, he finds a way to cope with all of these issues by picking up a beaver puppet and, by using a cockney accent that makes him sound straight out of a Guy Ritchie flick, interact with each and every person around him. While his wife (Jodie Foster) is happy about it because he’s now talking to them, Walter’s oldest son, Porter (Anton Yelchin) isn’t too hot about the idea; then again, he’s going through some problems of his own where he doesn’t know what he wants to do after high school and mostly passes the time by writing papers for fellow students. And for a little while, Walter’s new method of coping with his depression seems to be working out for him, as well as those around him, but sooner or later, there does come a point where the facade begins to run thin and people start getting weirded-out by the dude talking with a puppet.
The Beaver could have been a bigger movie, but man oh man, did it have some terrible timing. Yes, the Beaver came out a little after Mel Gibson’s racist and misogynistic freak-out and because of that, sadly suffered. The movie could have been wildly released to a whole slew of theaters, could have made a bigger dent at the box-office, and hell, it could have even gotten some critics and fans back on the Gibson Train. However, that didn’t happen and it’s a shame, because the Beaver’s a better movie than some give it credit for.
Of course, it’s by no means a masterpiece, but for what it is, it’s a small, sweet and sometimes funny look at one man’s depression, and how he uses a silly-looking puppet to guide him through it all. Does it make perfect sense? Not really, but the fact is that Jodie Foster directs the movie in such a lovely way, what with it’s breezy pace and all, that it didn’t really bother me how far it wanted to go with this premise.
After all, the movie itself is nearly an-hour-and-a-half, which does make it seem awfully brief.
However, Foster is a capable enough director to allow for material such as this, to work. It doesn’t hit us over-the-head with constant metaphors, nor does it try to be anything more meaningful and life-affirming than just a simple, down-to-Earth tale of one man’s issues. You can call it “hokey”, or “sappy”, or whatever you want, but there’s no denying that the movie’s enjoyable, so long as you aren’t expecting to have your life changed by the end.
But there is a feeling that movie could have been more, if I’m being truly honest. Everything involving Gibson and the beaver is perfectly fine and actually adds a lot of fun to the movie, but whenever it tries to focus more on Yelchin’s character, the movie drags a bit. Don’t get me wrong, the scenes that he has with Jennifer Lawrence can sometimes be pretty good, if only because they have dynamite chemistry, but after awhile, they begin to show up at times that almost seem unnecessary. A movie that was already short as is, could have, somehow, been trimmed down to an even shorter run-time.
And this isn’t to say that Yelchin, Lawrence, or anyone else that isn’t Mel Gibson aren’t good, because they are. However, it also feels like Foster herself may be struggling with where to go with these two stories, how to connect them, and how to make them both simultaneously interesting. The fact that Yelchin’s character is a bit of a slacker without much inspiration in his life, already makes his story-line seem a tad bit more interesting, but the supposed love-interest he has in Lawrence kind of takes it away from being as such. Lawrence herself is quite good, but you also get the feeling that she’s got more charisma and personality than this thinly-written role may have for her.
Some of this doesn’t matter because, when you get down to it, it’s really Gibson’s show and he makes it worth watching.
All personal issues aside, there is no denying that Gibson himself is a charismatic performer who, when given the right material to work with, can not just work wonders, but make you realize that he truly is a star who can do everything. He can do tough-guy bravado, he can do sweet, sensitive guy, and he can definitely do everyman simpleton, and while he only gets a chance to show-off the later, it’s still a good reminder that hey, he’s still a good actor, no matter what sort of trash comes out of his mouth behind-the-scenes.
As Walter Black, he gets another chance to be funny, but also show that there’s a more dramatic side to him as well. I’m sure the original script was aiming for a darker-tone, what with Walter acting out in public with a puppet and all, but Gibson takes the material and has a ball with it. He’s not only funny with that pitch perfect accent, but he also gives you the idea that there is a sane and normal-thinking human being underneath all of the acting-out. While he may not fully show it, he’s still there and it’s enough to make you want to see where he goes with the character next.
Of course, it’s a bummer that Jodie Foster doesn’t get much to do as Walter’s wife, but then again, it’s her movie that she directed. She doesn’t feel like she needs to get in the way of Mel’s show and it’s a smart maneuver. Next time, however, I would definitely appreciate more Jodie Foster.
Can’t get enough of her, honestly.
Consensus: Without trying to change the world and the people existing in it, the Beaver is a sweet and likable little dramedy, featuring a great performance from Mel Gibson – someone who is, despite all of the controversy surrounding him, a good actor.
6.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire