Star – Mel Gibson & Jodie Foster
Genre – Comedy/Drama
Run Time – 91 minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – USA
Awards – 2 Wins & 4 Nominations
Amazon – £3.27 DVD £7.02 Blue Ray
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I think it’s fair to say Mel Gibson has fallen the furthest of the A-List stars in our life times. From the boozing racial abuse, anti Semite stuff and beating up the misses, to name but three issues. Fantastic screen idol with those piercing blue eyes and screen presence but, like most Aussies, not so good off camera with a beer in his hand and time to kill. His career has been salvaged of sorts with his directing talents, his last four movies of Hacksaw Ridge, Apocolypto, Passion of the Christ and Braveheart accruing a few Oscar nominations and that win for Braveheart. But acting wise it’s been a slow descent as he doesn’t seem to pick acting led performance movies and takes the best of what action-drama stuff going. The Beaver (2011), on the other hand, was very different. Mel had to act.
The film, written and directed by co-star Jodie Foster (who has also disappeared from the good movies after coming out as gay) marked a return to New York State for Gibson since he and his mostly of Irish descent family left for Australia in the 1960s. Not many people know this but he was born in America and lived there for his first ten years. The screenplay for this film was featured in the 2008 Blacklist; a list of the "most liked" unmade scripts of the year. Before the film company settled for a release date in spring 2011, this film had been shelved due to Mel Gibson allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva. It’s a tricky business working with this guy in Hollywood with all his baggage.
Mel Gibson ... Walter Black
Jennifer Lawrence ... Norah
Jodie Foster ... Meredith Black
Anton Yelchin ... Porter Black
Riley Thomas Stewart ... Henry Black
Cherry Jones ... Vice President
Zachary Booth ... Jared
Kelly Coffield Park ... Norah's Mom
Walter Black (Mel Gibson) is the depressed CEO of a toy company nearing bankruptcy, his deteriorating condition responsible for that, a man of ideas and drive reduced to a miserable wreck.
He has just been kicked out by the wife (Jodie Foster) and to the relief of their elder son Porter (Anton Yelchin), who has lost respect for dad, his little son Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart) just missing dad.
Walter moves into a hotel to top himself but after two after unsuccessful suicide attempts, hitting his head on the last one when the shower rail collapses, he develops a bizarre alternate personality represented by a hand puppet found in the trash. He wears the beaver puppet constantly, lecturing himself in an Australian accent, ventriloquist style, somehow helping him to recover. His wife knows he is nuts but believes his excuse that the doctor recommended the unconventional approach, and it is seems to be working to bring him back it softens their relationship to the point where they jump in the sack together for a puppet threesome.
Around the house he also reestablishes a bond with Henry, making stuff in the garage although not with Porter. He also becomes successful again at work by creating a line of Mr. Beaver Building Kits for kids, the staff as equally baffled by the puppet on his hand but just happy to keep their jobs.
Porter, a bit of a high school loner, makes money on the side by getting paid to write papers for schoolmates, and is asked by sexy cheerleader Norah (Jennifer Lawrence) to write her graduation speech. He is soon attacked to Norah but still no way back for his father's in his life with the beaver puppet thing still an embarrassment to him. Things take a turn for the worst for Walter when the wife moves out of the house with the children after talking to his doctor. What puppet, he says. Because he lied trust is lost again. The beaver is beginning to take over Walter.
This film is pretty darn silly to be honest. It’s Mad Max with a ventriloquist puppet. What was Gibson and Foster thinking! It really is an American Mel Gibson talking to an Australian Mal Gibson and more than a few film writers have drawn this films script comparisons to his schizophrenic life. Is Mel blaming the puppet for calling the Jews what he did, is the inference. What possessed Jodie Foster to direct this and cast Gibson is beyond me. It’s just not his bag. To be fair she doesn’t have a great record at directing and so no surprise she had to raise cash for this as exec producer as well as director. The gruesome ending was the main reason the studios lost interest in this as it didn’t test well but she insisted on that ending to stay on the film. It cost $21 million to make in the end and did just $6.4m back and a deserved bomb.
A different cast and a more comical approach and the script might have worked and, perhaps, a children’s movie would have been better her. There are one or two enjoyable moments and solid lines but it’s just a crazy idea for a serious movie and it all becomes a bit contrived and self-indulgent. Mel acts his socks off the best he can emotionally but this character not really what he is good at. I think he got this sort of thing about right in the ‘Man Without a Face’ but that tanked to. He just doesn’t do pathos or emotion. Jodie Foster, on the other hand, has nothing to do as the concerned wife and clearly worried about her money in the film at this point. Still looks good though for 46 but now she is kissing girls at home her MILF status is no more.
After its slow start you begin to contemplate the puppet concept and start scratching you head. Where exactly is this going to go. What’s rather sad is Mel puts everything into this as if it’s a nailed on Oscar. It’s also sad to see Jodie Foster edged out of the industry after bravely coming out as she is an excellent actress. Jennifer Lawrence popping up as the token totty is a surprise, until you realize this movie is six years old and she only hit it big in 2013 and has gone stratospheric very quickly since. She, too, is a top actress and even here you can s that quality. But the film just lacks the elements around the bonkers puppet idea to work and I’m afraid it fall flat for me and wasted the assembled talent.
Imdb.com – 6.7/10.0 (41,234votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 61% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – % critic’s approval
The Independent –‘It isn't offensive, or antisemitic, or actionable, so there's some relief -- but it is very embarrassing’.
The Guardian –‘Contrived, self-admiring and self-pitying, unfunny, burdened with a central performance which is unendurably conceited and charmless’.
Little Whites Lies –‘It's commendable to capture depression on film, but a talking rodent and a fallen star aren't the way to do’.
Daily Telegraph –‘Fitfully compelling, a welcome antidote to more formulaic Hollywood fare, and deserving of more than embarrassed sniggers’.
The Bostonian –‘It doesn't quite work, but it does provide something of a cinematic exorcism for the public's increasingly conflicted relationship with Gibson’.
Dad Spin –‘Thinks it's a whimsical tale of a man finding himself, but Gibson thinks it's the tale of a man losing his mind’
We Got this covered –‘Thinks it's a whimsical tale of a man finding himself, but Gibson thinks it's the tale of a man losing his mind’.