Everything is going wrong for Walter Black. His business is failing, his marriage is falling apart, and his relationship with his elder son seems beyond repair. Even his attempts to kill himself don’t pan out. Perhaps to make matters worse, he’s also being played by Mel Gibson. But then he finds The Beaver.
Talking through a hand puppet, Walter takes a fresh start in life, adopting a gruff voice, talking about himself in the third person, and seemingly ignoring, though never really dealing his, his emotional and psychological problems of the past. But against all odds it seems to work. Making the full step back into normality, however, it a whole other question, and even after moving back home and smoothing things over with his wife, The Beaver becomes a permanent part of his being, and slimming down to just Walter again is something he seems very unlikely to stomach.
The Beaver is a film with a lot of potential but it so regularly fails to capitalise on it. With a largely original plot, an interesting central character, and plenty of opportunities for both hard-hitting drama and incisive, witty comedy, instead it comes out thoroughly half-baked. The comedy lacks punch, while the drama is, to say the least, inadequate and under-developed, like Walter and his mental anguish, The Beaver so regularly skirts around without really talking about any of its central issues.
From the pen newcomer Kyle Killen, creator of the brilliant, but instantaneously cancelled, Lone Star, it reeks of promise but vast inexperience, while Jodie Foster perhaps could have helmed the narrative better too.
Yes, Jodie Foster is the director, although with The Beaver so overplayed at Mel Gibson’s whacky ‘comeback’ movie, you probably didn’t even realise it was her name pulling the strings behind the camera, as well as acting in front of it.
Gibson himself is quite good; he does well with what he’s given, and delivers a rounded performance, but surprisingly doesn’t quite have enough screen time for his character arc to be fully explored.
Out of nowhere, instead, a romantic narrative for elder son, Porter (Yelchin) and queen bee Norah (Lawrence), largely steals the limelight, despite deserving barely five minutes. Anton Yelchin is dreadful, and really holds the film back, and when couple with a cheesy soundtrack that undermines every emotional moment, that side of the story feels wholly forced, and entirely ineffective.
This film is far from dreadful, but it is still thoroughly unsatisfying. There are far worse films out there, but through The Beaver’s own capitul ation, many of them are more entertaining and much more rounded than this ‘dip your toe in’, unconvincing dramedy. They don’t make one crude genitalia joke the entire film too.