Friday, May 20, 2011

The Beaver - 2 1/2 stars

Mel Gibson stars as a man who runs a large toy company. He didn't start the company - he inherited it from his dad. He is also married with two boys. He has been depressed for a couple of years. It got so bad that he did nothing but sleep all the time. His wife kicks him out because she can't take it, and doesn't know what to do for him.

One day, he finds a beaver hand puppet in a dumpster. He takes it home, cleans it up and puts it on. That night, he is about to kill himself when the beaver starts talking to him. It isn't really talking to him, though. Gibson is talking to himself but in the third person. When the beaver talks, it uses a cockney accent. I have to wonder if Gibson chose that accent after working with Ray Winstone on Edge of Darkness.

This is an interesting premise. Even in the depths of depression, a person still has an inner monologue. You can recognize that your behaviour is ridiculous, even if you can't do anything about it. So the idea of him vocalizing his inner monologue through this puppet is a good one. It is so hard for him to deal with the people in his life that he has to create this separate personality to talk to them. He asks people to address the beaver instead of him, and for the most part, people go along with it. The person who refuses to is his son, played by Anton Yelchin.

There is a separate storyline involving his son writing papers for other students for money at his high school. When the head cheerleader / valedictorian asks him to write her graduation speech, he starts a relationship with her.

Back to Gibson's character. We are not entirely sure if he is creating the beaver character to deal with his problems, or if he is schizafrenic and believes the beaver is really alive. At some point, he seems to believe it, because he tells someone (well, the beaver tells someone) that he is real.

One part of the movie that didn't work for me was the toy. He invents a toy that is some kind of wood block with tools and a talking beaver, and the idea is kids can carve their own beaver out of the wood. It suddenly becomes the hottest toy in the country. And because of that, Gibson is invited to be on talk shows. Because he appears with the beaver, he becomes some kind of celebrity. I didn't buy any of that. It wasn't set up well enough, and it distracted from the more interesting parts of the story. It is also inconsistent. One minute he is a media sensation (even on magazine covers), but he never seems to run in to the press or get recognized in public. It's like the idea of him becoming a celebrity was just stuck into the script without a good rewrite. It serves no purpose.

The movie is very uneven. It gets really dark, and while I usually like dark movies, it has to have some dark humor or good human emotion or something. This movie got dark without really earning it, if that makes any sense. Mel Gibson turns in a good performance, and he makes it believable. I respect the movie for going the places it went, but it just wasn't written or directed well enough to make it work.

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