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Ward, I'm worried about The Beaver.

"The Beaver" | a short review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

Watching the movie called, "The Beaver" is like banging your head against the wall--- which is what the teenaged son of Walter Black (Mel Gibson) does whenever the kid (Anton Yelchin) has had enough of Mr. Gibson acting-out, in his character, by talking through a large stuffed animal. It's stuck on his left hand and looks like a beaver that might be rabid. The beaver "speaks" in a cockney, sort of Aussie accent that Gibson knows too well. Ahead, Mel might be usurping roles from Michael Caine.

There is surely a joke going around now, that Mel Gibson is just acting himself in this movie that also stars the stalwart Jodie Foster as his wife, Meredith Black (the beaver pronounces it "Mer-reh-diff.") Ms. Foster is also the director of "The Beaver."

When "The Beaver" is attempting to be funny, mostly at the outset, it's not. And when feverishly working, later, at being serious, sentimental and turning a very quick corner to "everything being okay," it's freaking pathetic.

After only about 8 to 10 minutes of running time, I knew this item was going to make it a long night at the movies, even though the film runs less than an hour and a half.

Walter Black is a depressed toy manufacturer. He's tried everything to buck up. His family is just about at the end of the rope, too, with Walter's marathon sleepfulness, heavy drinking, endless therapy programs and a suicide attempt that is played for funny.

Jennifer Lawrence and Anton Yelchin

Jennifer Lawrence and Anton Yelchin

Subplotting, "The Beaver" brings the son, Porter Black, into contact with the local high school valedictorian, Nora (Jennifer Lawrence). She talks Porter into creating her valedictory speech for graduation because Porter is so good at writing as if he's someone else; not unlike the beaver on his dad's left hand. Both teenagers have their emotional problems as well, which really makes "The Beaver" pretty much a downer---all the way.

I've always liked Jodie Foster. She's good in this film... and looks great, as well. But Gibson has always been somewhat of a let down for me since he shed his Mad Max costume, so long ago.

In a secondary role, it's Ms. Lawrence ("The Poker House") showing fresh promise for better things to come. She's somebody else, completely, in "The Beaver" than the rural girl she played in "Winter's Bone," a film released last year that garnered Jennifer no less than an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

"The Beaver" is depressing, maudlin---depicting self-mutilation---and, for me, creepier than "Mulholland Drive" and "Blue Velvet," put together, with a little "Twin Peaks" on the side. I'm such a David Lynch fan.

To wrap this, I leave you two things: NPR has comes of age in "The Beaver" with a brief scene of Mel Gibson, as Walter, being interviewed on the Terry Gross Fresh Air show from WHYY in Philadelphia , after a longer chat on "Today," with Matt Lauer. I must confess, though, I actually did laugh once: when Gibson's character is shown talking with the stuffed beaver on his fist to Jon Stewart. Now... that's funny! Thanks, of course, to Jon Stewart. Can't you just imagine that Jon Stewart shrug the acerbic host employs so often as the beaver speaks on the "Daily Show" set, his furry mouth moving, in sync, with Mr. Gibson's?

It just occurred to me that, maybe, "The Beaver" would've been a whole different kind of cinematic experience if Mel Gibson's character decides, in order to shuck his depression, he needs to be a ventriloquist.

Maybe a title change, too, like, "Read My Lips."

"The Beaver" official site. Opens wide May 20.

See Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2011, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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