Garrett Harris 12:36 a.m., June 19
Commentary: The Beaver
Mel Gibson, the original soul surfer, stars as a beleaguered, hopelessly depressed executive who finds redemption through a discarded beaver hand puppet. Embarrassing autobiographical angst or confirmation that Mel's agent is a vengeful Jew with a funny bone?
As if we needed one, here is another reason to dislike Maverick. Were it not for that saddle-sore oater, Mel and Jodie Foster might never have met, and she would not today be in a position to exculpate and defend her old pal.
It stings to be the last one on the block to see a new movie. News of The Beaver first hit my desk a little over five months ago when a friend forwarded a copy of the trailer. From that day forward all roads led to Mel's latest. I was unable to attend the first screening, and the second was at a theatre that offers a less than optimum anamorphic image. (2:1, anyone?) I'll be damned if I wasn't going to give this one my best shot! Last week the film premiered in limited release on 22 screens, taking in a scant $104,000. It was set to open in San Diego on May 19, but the date was suddenly pushed back to, appropriately enough, Friday the 13th.
Say what you will about the once-blessed actress/director, Foster has a lot of guts to attach her name to a project called The Beaver. Jim Carrey and Steve Carell were originally considered for the lead, but leave it to Mel to use it as a springboard to resuscitate his chronic destructive career. Did anyone truly believe audiences were going to flock to see a beaver-toothed sock share the spotlight with a movie star who offscreen acts the part of a violent, universally-despised, racist paranoiac? How could a project like this possibly go right?
Unlike most ventriloquist vs. evil-dummy outings (Dead of Night, Magic, Stop, Look, and Laugh) in which the puppets do the talking, once Mel gloves up, his lips move faster than Edger Bergen calling an auction. Not since Cecil B. DeMille insisted that Charlton Heston play both Moses and The Voice of God in The Ten Commandments has cinema reached this level of schizophrenic depuration.
Personally, I wouldn't throw another dime this guy's way. Never mind about Mel's personal peccadilloes. Did you see the way he broke the 180-degree rule during the first ten-minutes of The Passion? No greater sin is known on earth.
The Beaver is currently playing (in perfectly masked Panavision) at Landmark's Hillcrest Cinemas. Watch for David Elliott's review next week.