Saturday, 17 August 2013

No.118 : The Beaver

The Beaver at the IMDb

This is a strange film that, if it had been described to you, you’d have thought it to be some sort of wacky spoof. It is real and I can testify to that as I had 90 minutes in the company of Mel Gibson talking through a beaver hand puppet. Maybe it’ll have something to say about damaged people and our perceptions of others? Or will it show that Mel’s decline shows no sign of hitting bottom?

Mel plays Walter a toy company owner who has a touch of depression. He’s married to Jodie Foster (who also directs) and the marriage isn’t going too well. Mel has two sons ; one a teenager who hates him and another who is a pre-schooler. The teenager is logging the similarities between himself and his Dad whilst writing exam papers for fellow students. The pre-schooler isn’t connecting with Mel but a good bit of puppetry will sort that relationship out!

After two years of trying to make the depressed marriage work Jodie kicks Mel out on his ass. Mel visits a dumpster to lose some stuff but finds a hand puppet beaver instead, which he immediately installs on his arm. He talks to himself and others through the beaver in a dreadful cockney accent and tries to kill himself in a half hearted attempt involving his tie and a shower rail.

On hearing of the new beaver Jodie unbelievably lets Mel back into the house and soon the marriage starts to improve. At work, after giving out cards explaining the beaver off as a psychiatric device, Mel reenergises his workforce and soon their ‘beaver kit’ is the toy hit of the year.

Elsewhere, Mel’s rudderless son is making friends with the smartest girl in school who wants him to write her a speech for her graduation. They also explore their love for tagging and her feeling of loss for her dead brother - she’s got issues too, you see!

Soon Mel is no longer talking from the beaver and it develops his own voice. Jodie is unhappy with the rodent’s planned appearance at her anniversary dinner and it may be that power tools are the only way to separate man from cuddly toy. Will the various problem people find redemption? And will the stuffed toy take all the acting awards for this frankly weird film?

This was as strange a 90 minutes of Hollywood film that you can imagine. An A-list cast involve themselves with a cheap Muppet while playing it straight. Issues such as detachment and isolation are touched on but you never get away from the guy out of ‘Lethal Weapon’ talking to a glove puppet as an equal. The puppet is never animated and the whole thing is ground solidly in reality with all the laughs of the nervous and awkward nature.

I can only imagine the whole project looked like a worthy examination of mental health but it just came across as totally  mental. Gibson lacked his usual charm and looked lost throughout. Foster was better and her irritation with her husband seemed real - no doubt she channelled her feelings of being involved in this farce!

I’m all for actors taking a chance and trying something ‘out there’ but this was an uncomfortable and strange venture that will do nothing to aid the understanding of either mental health issues or the troubles faced by beaver puppets stuffed into dumpsters.

THE Tag Line - Even Madder Max!  33%

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