Throwback Thursday: The Beaver
The Beaver (2011) movie review
For this Throwback Thursday, we are going AAALLLLLL the way back to good-ol’ 2011! Also special thanks to Kelsie Bennett for suggesting this review!
The Beaver is a drama that stars Mel Gibson as a depressed man who discovers a beaver puppet that he begins using as his only form of communication with his family and employees. The film co- stars Jodie Foster (who also directed the film), Jennifer Lawrence, and the late Anton Yelchin. The Beaver was released in May of 2011 to a box office haul of under $10 million, which doesn’t actually feel terrible for this film. That said the film scores right about in the middle with both audiences and critics.
While my wonderful but not very frequent cowriter Rachel would love to take this “stupid” film to task for any number of things she hated in it, you are sadly stuck with me (Ryan). And honestly, the nicest thing I have to say about it was that it wasn’t exactly bad. It’s just not good. What’s the point of this review then? Well look, we’ve got Nobody (2021) this weekend and a ton of Kong and Godzilla reviews coming soon, so we needed something to plug in here. (But also it was requested, and we like to take those seriously!)
Anyway, let’s start with the thing that both makes and breaks this film: the story. This is honestly a creative premise. It tackles depression and mental health in a way that is somehow strange but understandable. (To an extent at least.) But unlike the 2014 drama Frank (which I highly recommend if you like weird but deep dramas), The Beaver never really commits to the bit. The way the story progresses honestly doesn’t make a ton of sense at times, jumping logic gaps whenever it suits what this film considers a meaningful moment. And in the end, those moments are sorely lacking. The film also lacks some potentially bold or weird humor that could have gone hand-in-puppet-hand with this wacky story. Instead we are left with no real emotions at all.
There is a subplot with Mel Gibson’s son (Yelchin) and the valedictorian at his high school (Lawrence) who wants him to write her graduation speech that manages to feel more impactful than the core story of the film. But when your B story is more interesting than you’re a story, you’ve got either focus problems or major structural problems. I think The Beaver has both. It dedicates a large amount of the runtime towards that subplot, and while it does deserve praise for being well-rounded, there are also just so many little things build up in the main story of the film that go nowhere. Gibson’s relationship with his youngest son who goes from a recluse to bonding with him because of the thing that is driving everyone else away? That’s interesting! Goes nowhere in the end.
Now the quality of the film is mostly positive, and I can give some credit to the filmmaking for that. It’s kinda well shot, and not terribly written at times either. (I know that’s a big leap from cinematography to screenplay, but it’s what I do when I need to yada-yada to a different point.) Part of the strength in dialogue comes from the surprisingly committed performance from Mel Gibson, who manages to carry this film as two characters despite being the third choice for the film behind Jim Carrey and Steve Carell. Gosh Jim Carrey would have been PERFECT. But Gibson does do a pretty good job. Costar/director Jodie Foster also does a fairly good job, but there is a lot of acting direction given to her in a very egotistical way if you ask me. Long shots of her being dramatic, which as the director, feels like it just takes away from the story.
So in the end, I didn’t HATE The Beaver, but it does not live up to the creativity of the premise. It’s not as dramatic as it could be, it’s certainly not as weird of funny as it could be- it just exists without emotions. For a drama, that’s not a good place to be. That said the film has some quality to it, including a rather decent subplot that manages to be more interesting than the rest of the film. Would I watch it again? Nah. Would I recommend it? Eh, probably not, no. Would I call it a bad movie? Almost, but it’s just kinda meh for me. I’ll forget about The Beaver in a few days, and I think that is for the best. Don’t go out of your way for this one. 5/10.
So The Beaver? Did you see it? What did you think? And what is the strangest film premise you’ve seen? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you wished we would talk about more random little films, let us know what we should write about next!
-review by Ryan Prince