The Beaver Review

Writer Kyle Killen has seen way too much South Park in his day. His script for The Beaver brings to life a real Mr. Garrison, the school teacher who speaks through a hand puppet to his students. In this case, instead of an animated cut-out, it’s Mel Gibson.

This probably wasn’t the best role for Gibson to take post-racist, looney rant and somewhat ironically, a feces infested parody on South Park. He’s playing dual roles, one as downtrodden, depressed business man Walter Black, the other as a man seeking asylum from his mental breakdown through a puppet.

Neither is particularity convincing, The Beaver breezily fast-forwarding to the fateful moment where Black and the Beav meet for the first time. It’s already far gone at that point.

No matter what the film tries to do, “tries” a crucial and relevant term, The Beaver can never connect the dots. Black’s toy company soars and the general populace soaks up his workworking kit for kids en masse because of a zany appearance on the Today Show. His family rejects him, invites him back, sends him back out, and his oldest son can’t piece to together a high school romance.

Maybe it’s because the film never convinces anyone that it’s legitimate, neither in terms of its dramatic, suicidal flairs nor in its attempts to be funny. Gibson is stuck shoving a decrepit beaver puppet in his co-workers face, keeping it “abreast” of the situation as he makes love to wife, and brawling with it in a hotel room. The beaver wins by the way.

Padded with scenes of inane scenes of Black sort of lost, a means of giving depression a visual accompaniment, doesn’t work in the context. Instead, it feels like it’s avoiding the situation entirely with clumsily constructed comedy. The Beaver doesn’t succumb to the traditional Hollywood need to showcase the crazy in an institutionalized setting, although this is one case where it might has helped. And by helped, that’s both for Black and the audience. It would have been a reprieve from that creepy puppet.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

Much of The Beaver seems to have been shot via a filter, the only logical reason why the skin tones carry such a glassy, glowing quality while struggling to produce even moderate definition. It’s not difficult to stretch it a little and call the film ugly, dreadfully uninspired from the opening frames and carrying through to the end.

Medium shots carry an obvious, glaring processed quality, and any female in the film seems to have succumbed to clear smoothing. The overall appearance coming from this AVC encode veers soft, disallowing any precision or detail-oriented pleasantries. A worthy grain structure remains in place eliminating most theories on tampering from Summit with regards to the home video release. The problems certainly materialize as a source decision.

Further complicating matters is an abysmal color palette, Jodie Foster’s directorial choice taking a uniquely inspired (if failed) concept and drenching it in familiar teal and orange hues. Flesh tones carry a definite saturation and heft, although in the end, only deepening the irritation spawned from the filtering. Faces look like mush.

Black levels reach a flaccid peak, miscalculated to result in a dim, pale shade of gray or blue. Interiors of the home, barely producing any light, battle to showcase depth anywhere near acceptable levels. They fail. Minor quirks, stuff like aliasing and a shot or two that lands in a chroma noise war are nowhere near the damaging level of blacks.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

Gathering some tunage to establish its indie cred, the miniscule song selection provides the only sonic relief from a pit of general dialogue. Music proves spry and lively, captured with a front-focused assault and surround speaker journey. Fidelity is crisp from the melodic pieces, necessary considering how dry the rest of this DTS-HD track turns out to be.

There’s little being offered up to the audio gods short of Mel Gibson’s forced accent. Surrounds prove they’re allowed to merely exist as physical object, not just sound-producing boxes while a movie is playing in 5.1. Words are never brave enough to endure the hardships of moving from the center channel, and the meager offerings in regards to the minimalist environments are totally forgettable. Balanced well despite having so little to balance, The Beaver won’t be remembered for much of anything.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

Director/actress Jodie Foster pulls commentary duty, following up her chat over the movie by optionally explaining the cut of two deleted scenes. Everything is Going to Be Okay is the now expected making-of, making the usual rounds of cast interviews and minimal behind-the-scenes stuff. Access to BD-Live features were down at the time of review.

Extras ★★☆☆☆