Is he ever. The Beaver, a raggedy hand puppet, is Walter’s way to get back into the swing of things. Only by shoving his hand up the puppet’s furry rear and making it talk can he fully communicate and connect with his resentful wife (Jodie Foster, also director) and his oldest son, who hates him with a passion.
Meanwhile, Porter (Anton Yelchin), is earning good cash by writing his classmates’ papers. He gets paid whatever a high school senior’s top dollar is because he can mimic the client’s voice, and his newest, cheerleader Norah (Jennifer Lawrence), needs him to write her graduation speech. Porter takes her on, not for the money, but to help her “open up.” Such a creative parallel here between the situations. Maybe Porter can learn to respect his father. Guess how the movie ends.
For a movie where the main character talks through a puppet, The Beaver really has little to offer in creativity or laughs. Foster’s forte is not black comedy and so the whole thing comes off more as pathetic than funny.
On paper, though, The Beaver sounds like one of the most brilliant ideas ever devised by a celebrity gossip-obsessed drunk: “A pathetic, boozed-up Mel Gibson befriends a hand puppet to get his family and reputation back.” The problem is, this isn’t Mel Gibson. It’s Walter Black, who, beaver or not, we have no reason to give a damn about over any other sad sack father in movies.
The Beaver has its obvious flaws in script, storytelling and subtlety. But it’s hard not to admire Mel Gibson. He threw what little he has left out there for this role, maybe his last chance to do the damage control that exclusive interviews couldn’t. It may have failed, but it must have been worth a shot.
Deleted Scenes (4:52): There are two here (“Role Play,” “Puppet Pull”), both of which can be viewed with optional commentary by Foster.
Everything is Going to be O.K. (12:06): In this documentary, interviewees Foster, Mel Gibson, Jennifer Lawrence, and Anton Yelchin discuss the themes, style and tone of The Beaver. Clips and on-set footage are also included.