Everything that follows is: a spoiler.
I have seen a lot of movies while under the influence. Sometimes this is a terrible idea, like when I went to see Shutter Island after an hour-long binge of a certain substance, at a movie theater across the street from Ground Zero. Too. Heavy. So. Paranoid. Other times, like when watching The Beaver, the help of a mind-altering pal can make the experience not only bearable, but enjoyable.
Let me begin by saying it is taking all I have not to constantly refer to this mess as Jodie Foster’s Beaver. She deserves it though; she chose to bring this movie into the world. You used to be something, Jodie Foster. A guy shot Ronald Reagan for you. This is the best you can come up with?
What you need to understand is that Walter (Mel Gibson, remember him?) is depressed. Extremely depressed. He doesn’t talk to his sons, a brooding teenager and a bright-eyed kindergartener, and he won’t make out with his wife, Jodie Foster, who I’m pretty sure doesn’t have a name in this movie. Also, he inherited a major toy manufacturing company from his father, The Greatest CEO That Ever Lived, and he’s running it into the ground. Instead of showing compassion for Walter’s obviously worsening condition, and possibly getting him some help, his family keeps calling him out on his shit and telling him he’s a loser. Teenage Son actually keeps tally of all the ways he and his father are similar with a not-obvious-at-all chart on his wall, and then works on ways to eradicate those similarities. Good lord, I would be bummed too if I were Walter.
When Jodie Foster kicks him out, Walter has a smoke-fueled, bloody, drunken shame-spiral at a cheap motel, much like the night I saw Shutter Island. He awakes in the morning on the motel floor, being berated by a woolly beaver puppet attached to his hand. In other words, he is yelling at himself in an exaggerated Australian accent. Which puzzles me – Mel Gibson is Australian. Why does he need to put on a thick, joke accent to be the beaver? Or wait – is this Mel Gibson’s real accent and he’s just been holding out on us all these years?
Anyway, the beaver puppet tells him to get his shit together and start living his life. The beaver puppet and Oprah have a lot in common. He picks up his kindergartener from school, and they start making things out of wood, because that’s beaver-y and a great way to bond. Jodie Foster comes home and is mildly alarmed when she sees what’s going on, but Walter quickly wins her over with his newfound confidence and Australianess. You see, as he explains, the beaver puppet is a therapeutic device given to him by his psychologist, only used when no other methods will help. The beaver is in control of his life until he is sane again. Okay. Jodie Foster doesn’t see anything too weird about this, and invites him to stay for dinner. Over time, they rekindle their romance and he moves back in with the family.
Meanwhile, Teenage son is running a successful business at school writing other students’ papers. He is shocked when the pretty blonde valedictorian (Jennifer Lawrence) who he totally wants to Winters Bone, asks him to write her graduation speech. He agrees, and they later meet up at her house to start working. He discovers that even though she’s a serious student, her real passion is art, which her parents don’t understand. And not just normal, “square” art, but tagging. If only it wasn’t so easy to get caught! Somehow, he derives from her telling him not to go into an empty bedroom that she has a dead brother. There is definitely no mention of it whatsoever. And yet, he decides that a romantic gesture would be to take her to an empty lot and tag “RIP DAVID” in neon yellow on the wall, because “he knows that’s what she’s yearning to say, but doesn’t know how.” She is pissed. This movie makes no sense.
Walter (or the beaver, technically, because he only speaks through the puppet) has pretty much revamped his life. Things are going well. He pulls off a stunt where he goes into the toy company and calls a company-wide meeting. He informs the whole staff that he will be stepping down as CEO, and the beaver will be taking his place. No I’m serious. The whole company eats it up, finding his enthusiasm and whimsy charming, instead of what it is: disturbing. This man needs help. Within about three hours, the beaver saves the toy company by coming up with a hot new toy for the holiday season – a tool kit with precut wood pieces that children piece together to make their own beaver. And it’s a smash. Everyone in the country is buying one for little Johnny. You should know at this point I threw a lot of chex mix at the screen and yelled “You’re a liar, Jodie Foster!”
Speaking of Jodie, she’s enjoying all the hot sex she’s having with Mel Gibson (shudder), but really wishes he would put down the beaver puppet during the deed. The last straw is when they’re getting dressed for their anniversary dinner, and he puts a tiny tuxedo on the beaver. She orders him to take the puppet off, because “I want you, not the puppet.” Except, this does not work well, because Walter is still depressed. This peppy, confident person is the beaver, and without the puppet, Walter is back to how he was in the motel room. He practically sleeps through dinner and suddenly blows up at his wife. The next day, she packs her bags and moves the kids out of the house. Walter is alone again.
Around this time, he films an appearance on the Today show to talk about the toy tool kit thing’s amazing success. The beaver, of course, does the interview- and the whole world is enamored. There’s a nauseating montage of his face on every magazine on the news rack, and being interviewed on every late night show. Disappointed family is still disappointed.
But here’s the kicker: The psychologist never actually prescribed the puppet therapy. Where did the puppet come from, you ask? According to Walter, it’s not a puppet – it’s real, and it won’t let him go. Walter, NOT the beaver, calls Jodie Foster in the middle of the night pleading for help. In the best scene of the movie, the puppet wakes up and catches Walter on the phone. THEN THEY FIGHT. Mel Gibson fights with a hand puppet. Teenage son races over to the house to see if his dad’s okay, and finds Gibson on the garage floor covered in blood. He’s cut off his hand to get rid of the beaver for good.
After some intense therapy and a stint in a mental institution, a cutesy voiceover informs you that everything is better and you should love your family. I think. I don’t know what the point of this movie is. Be yourself?