Review Roundup: ‘The Beaver’

Michael Krumboltz
Movie Talk
'The Beaver' Summit Entertainment
'The Beaver' Summit Entertainment

Mel Gibson suffered an epic fall from grace in recent years. But fellow Oscar-winner Jodie Foster has continued to stand by her embattled friend.

This weekend, the pair releases a new movie, "The Beaver." The film, directed by and co-starring Foster, focuses on a hopelessly depressed man (Gibson), and how he uses a beaver puppet (yes, really) to help get his life back on track.

To say the film has an odd premise is probably putting it a tad lightly. Many filmgoers are eager to know if "The Beaver" is a success or, to use a well-worn phrase, "an epic fail." Here's the critics' take on what's sure to be the year's most unusual movie.

The New York Post's Lou Lumenick gives the effort three out of four stars and calls it "surprisingly strong work." Lumenick writes, "This bizarre little movie is all over the place as drama--but genuinely compelling as a one-of-a-kind piece of public self-flagellation."

Lumenick also notes that one scene in particular may feature

"the best acting that Gibson has done in his entire career." In that scene, Foster tries to get Gibson to go out for an anniversary dinner without his puppet. In the trailer, we see Foster say, "I've been very patient, but I want you, not him." According to the Hollywood Reporter, the scene is quite effective. "Gibson, hyperventilating and with eyes darting in panic, offers a more affecting, less romantically dramatic collapse than some he has created in earlier film roles."

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly was also largely impressed with the film, calling it "high-quality work." She gives the movie a B- and praises for Gibson for his willingness to, as she puts it, "look like hell." Still, it wasn't all praise from EW. Schwarzbaum does have problems with the film's second half, criticizing it for "going soft" and "turns into something not nearly as interesting as its dark first half."

Time Magazine's Mary F. Pols gives the movie props for being "serious about portraying mental illness" despite the ludicrousness of the beaver puppet. Time also points out the many similarities between Gibson the man and his character in the film. "The way its themes dovetail with Gibson's disgrace make it--peculiarly enough--the right film for him to have made in this very wrong moment." Similarly, the Hollywood Reporter writes that the "on-target dramedy transcends its real-world baggage." When you're dealing with a guy like Gibson, that's no small feat.

But not everybody agrees that Gibson and Foster pull off the improbable. David Denby of the New Yorker writes the earnestness in the film "seems all wrong" and that "a little wit would have helped" the proceedings. And Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune praises Gibson's performance as "movie-saving," but wishes the film would have stayed a black comedy rather than veer toward a "therapy-first drama."

Still, by nearly all accounts, Gibson gives a brave performance. It's hard to separate Gibson the actor from Gibson the tabloid disaster, but if "The Beaver" is a box office success, he surely deserves a lot of "dam" praise.

See the trailer for 'The Beaver':