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Beaver, The (Blu-ray Review)

19 Aug, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Street 8/23/11
Box Office $0.97 million
$26.99 DVD, $30.49 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for mature thematic material, some disturbing content, sexuality and language including a drug reference.
Stars Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence.

Regardless of Mel Gibson’s recent public social pitfalls fueled in part by well-documented alcohol abuse, the guy can act.

And nowhere is the need for thespian chops more pronounced than in Jodie Foster’s ambitious drama The Beaver — the story of a successful businessman, Walter Black (Gibson), in the clutches of suicidal depression who, by accident, tries to find redemption through a hand puppet.

Foster plays Gibson’s wife, Meredith, whose patience for her husband’s mood swings and malaise has reached a limit. Concerned about the effect it could have on their sons, including high school-aged Porter (Anton Yelchin from Terminator: Salvation), who painstakingly chronicles his father’s behavior on post-it notes, Meredith kicks Walter out.

Left to his own vices, an alcoholic will reach for the nearest bottle, which in Walter’s case also includes a cheap motel room with an even cheaper shower rod upon which he unsuccessfully attempts to hang himself.

Walter’s almost laughable suicide attempt is interrupted by a beaver hand puppet he thought twice about throwing in a dumpster along with old booze and other personal mementos.

The puppet, it turns out, has a mind and voice (Gibson’s with a Cockney-accent) of its own and is determined to turn Walter’s wretched life around. It’s here that Gibson’s brilliance shines as he plays both Walter and the beaver’s voice/alter ego — the latter attempting to resurrect and ultimately control Walter’s life.

While the absurdity of confronting one’s inner demons and mental illness through an increasingly edgy puppet could derail The Beaver into some kind of “Chucky” retread, Gibson and Foster keep the story on track — if not plausible.

The Blu-ray includes detailed commentary from the always-stimulating Foster, whose appeal for the story less told makes her work in front and behind the camera always worth noticing.

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