The Beaver Movie Review: Mel Gibson Damage Control on Screen


Not sure if Mel Gibson’s contrite, out of control character in The Beaver was custom made to supply a spin for his off camera bad boy antics, or the other way around. But the not necessarily coincidental explanation and exoneration conveniently offered by this role, implicating in partnership the animal puppet in question, seems to have provided an irresistible opportunity for Gibson to just go for it with nearly autobiographical relish. In other words, the beaver made me do it.

Gibson is Walter Black in this Jodie Foster directed sudsy dysfunctional family drama, though it feels more like Gibson may be in charge, or even the puppet. Maybe it’s because Foster also plays Black’s disapproving but impossibly meek wife, Meredith. Walter is a wealthy toy manufacturer executive and suburban family man who has inexplicably fallen into a deep clinical depression. Currently dividing his time between round the clock napping and drinking bouts, Walter is politely asked after a decade to depart the premises by his sulking, saintly wife.

Grabbing a few random possessions including that weathered boy toy beaver who’s seen better days, Black heads off to a local motel. Where the suddenly out of nowhere Brit accented talking beaver apparently saves Black from suicide bids, whether by bathroom shower rack via necktie, or over the terrace ledge. And for the rest of this alternately dreary and irritating flaky scenario, the beaver co-stars alongside Gibson in practically every scene as his tough love therapeutic alter ego, when not stern voice of conscience.

The intertwining of animal and human entities in this case of rowdy redemption for Mel, is impossible to exaggerate in words. The beaver, who sort of happens to be played by his ventriloquist pal Mel in a way, simultaneously enjoys sex with the nutty guy’s repeatedly forgiving wife in what comes off as perverse, won’t take no for an answer glovey-dovey conjugal bliss. And at one point the rather rambunctious toy even tries his hand at beating up his incorrigibly co-conspirator, and it’s not even worth mentioning who wins.

There’s more. In the midst of this increasingly tangled who’s who pandemonium, Walter confuses himself with the medicinal make-believe monster, and goes way overboard when driven to discard the furry demon once and for all. But not before replicas of said beaver become a fleeting overnight sales item sensation, back at Walter’s toy factory.

While in a sidebar scenario, the derelict dad’s resentful neglected teenage son Porter (Anton Yelchin) berates Mom for being a repeat offender victim, when not running a lucrative undercover term paper writing scam at school and romancing moody campus sexpot Norah (Jennifer Lawrence). And the only one who seems amused by any of this, is the family tot Henry who’s at that easily self-entertaining age anyway, played by perpetually delighted Riley Thomas Stewart.

Summit Entertainment

Rated PG-13

1 [out of 4] star