September 7, 2011
Review - " The Beaver " - (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Jodie Foster
Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Riley Thomas Stewart, Cherry
Jones, Jennifer Lawrence
Mel Gibson is damaged goods, in life and in his latest movie, "The Beaver," the
story of a profoundly depressed man who can only function when speaking in
the upbeat, Cockney-accented voice of a hand puppet that looks like a beaver.
That combination of toxic star and strange story has been box-office death for
"The Beaver," which was originally scheduled to open in Jacksonville last month
before being pulled after it did so poorly elsewhere. Now the 5 Points Theatre in
Riverside is giving the city a chance to make up its own mind. It's worth taking a
Directed by and co-starring Jodie Foster, it's funnier than you might expect, and
Gibson's real-world troubles - each one of which seems carved into lines on his
aging face - actually gave his character's woes a little more oomph, a little more
A line in the movie's trailer seems to reflect on Gibson in both real life and the
movie: "The successful and loving family man he used to be has gone missing."
He plays Walter Black, a toy-company CEO who - practically immobilized by depression - tries to commit suicide before a
tattered beaver puppet talks him out of it. Well, sort of. Walter's doing the talking for that puppet on his hand, in that sort-of
English accent. And his lips are moving, as are the beaver's (a ventriloquist, Walter's not).
Strangely enough, through the beaver's voice, Walter is once again animated, alive, even charming. His youngest son is
thrilled to have his dad back, and his wife (Foster), though wary, eventually takes him back into her heart.
But Walter's oldest son (Anton Yelchin), is
unyielding in his anger at his dad, for one scary
reason - he's just like him. He even has a growing
collection of sticky notes listing all the similarities
Now his dad's talking through a hand puppet?
What could be worse than that?
"The Beaver" could have made this all ridiculous,
but under Foster's careful storytelling, it takes it
as seriously as does Walter's family. Some
moments can't help but be funny and sad at the
same time, though. Check out Foster's face as
she and her husband become intimate again, with
the hand puppet along for the experience.
It's a measure of the care put into the film that
you'll likely find yourself rooting heavily for Walter
and his family to find some way out of this mess
they're in. They seem like a real family, beaver
puppet and all.
And "The Beaver" gives them the dignity they
deserve in their troubled times.