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SUMMIT

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jodie Foster
Cast:
Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Cherry Jones, Anton Yelchin, Riley Thomas Stewart, Zachary Booth, Jennifer Lawrence
Writing Credits:
Kyle Killen

Tagline:
He's here to save Walter's life.

Synopsis:
Walter, once a successful and happy family man, has hit rock bottom. But, in his darkest hour, he finds a rather unusual savior: a beaver hand-puppet that takes over Walter's life in an attempt to change things for the better. Academy Award® winner Jodie Foster directs and co-stars with Academy Award® winner Mel Gibson in a film critics call bold, complex, and funny.

Box Office:
Budget
$21 million.
Opening Weekend
$107.577 thousand on 22 screens.
Domestic Gross
$970.816 thousand.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 8/23/2011

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Actor/Director Jodie Foster
• “Everything Is Going to Be OK” Featurette
• Two Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Beaver [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 22, 2011)

Desperately in need of a comeback after his real-life escapades caused him to become tabloid fodder, Mel Gibson returns with an unusual project. Helmed by his friend and old Maverick co-star Jodie Foster, The Beaver focuses on Walter Black (Gibson), a middle-aged man mired in the depths of depression. This harpoons his home life and his family toy business.

When Walter shows no signs of improvement – and apparently resists attempts at treatment – his wife Meredith (Foster) acquires a separation and he moves into a cheap motel. After he cleans out his car trunk – so he can load up with the booze he uses to self-medicate – Walter finds a raggedy old beaver puppet. Initially he leaves it in a dumpster, but he feels drawn to it and retrieves it.

For no apparent reason, he decides to wear the puppet; he even sports it when he tries multiple attempts at suicide. When he tries to leap off the balcony and crashes into a TV, he suddenly hears the puppet “talk” to him – via his own voice, of course, now with a bad British accent.

From there Walter launches on an unusual sense of self-awakening. The puppet convinces him to blow up his life and start again. This means that he wears the puppet at all times and allows it to speak for – and control – him. We follow how Walter tries to recover and how it affects his family.

The Beaver comes burdened with a mix of potential issues. For one, how about that title? It leads the viewer to think it’ll either deliver porn or an update on Leave It To Beaver. Couldn’t they have thought up something a little more creative?

Title aside, the film’s very premise makes it something of a hard sell. A story about a man who uses a hand puppet as his voice seems more suited for a Jim Carrey comedy than a fairly dramatic effort about mental illness. Indeed, when I first heard about the film, I figured that was the path it’d follow; I felt surprised to learn that it’d take a more serious direction.

Though not totally serious, as Foster clearly realizes that you can’t make a movie about a man who speaks through a furry puppet and keep it completely downbeat. She peppers the film with light comedy throughout its running time. Nonetheless, this is a movie that much more strongly favors drama.

As I watched Beaver, I continually viewed it as American Beauty with hand puppets. Beaver presents a tone and feel that match the earlier film pretty well. No, it’s not as comedic or satiric, but there’s a definitely similarity at work.

Beauty manages a more involving, deliberate experience, though, as Beaver tends to be choppy. Part of the problem stems from the narrative, as the tale often creates more questions than answers. Some of this is intentional, as Foster doesn’t want to inundate us with history; we’re presented with Walter as he is now and forced to glean details about his earlier life.

I don’t mind that – heck, it’s nice to get a movie that doesn’t spoon-feed exposition – but Beaver comes with a few too many gaps, and it also suffers from big leaps of believability. I simply find it hard to swallow that so many people – nearly everyone, apparently – would readily accept the notion of a man who speaks through a hand puppet.

The film explores the Beaver’s place in Walter’s family pretty well, I admit. Meredith seems unsure but initially embraces the puppet because it allows her husband to emerge from the depths of depression. Youngest son Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart) goes along with the gag because he’s too little to see the big deal, while late teen son Porter (Anton Yelchin) rejects the puppet – and his dad – as bluntly as one would expect of someone his age.

The issue stems from how easily the Beaver fits into the rest of Walter’s life. We see that his employees put up almost no resistance to the insanity, and then we watch as a beaver-related woodworking kit for kids becomes the toy company’s return to glory. I find it tough to believe that such a product would inspire passion in the young population, but I think it’s even tougher to accept that Walter/The Beaver turn into pop culture sensations. Doesn’t anyway feel the whole thing’s kinda kooky?

Admittedly, those are side subjects, though the realization that these become tangents leads me to realize that Beaver lacks a true center. While nominally Walter’s story, the film spends virtually equal amounts of time with Porter as we explore his own issues. He’s terrified he’ll turn out just like his dad, and he engages in a tentative romance with hot cheerleader/valedictorian Norah’s (Jennifer Lawrence).

These segments exist to spotlight the parallels between Porter and Walter and give some depth to the exploration of mental illness – in theory. In reality, the Porter sequences come across as filler. At only 91 minutes, Beaver is already a short movie, so it lacks much time to really dig into its characters and themes. Add to that its desire to explore two major roles and the results seem even less likely to satisfy.

Which leaves both as vaguely unfulfilling. Walter’s tale is easily the more interesting of the pair, and Gibson throws himself into the part with abandon. He creates a good dichotomy between mumbly, logy Walter and the charismatic, decisive Beaver; it’s a tough role but Gibson manages to make it work.

When the film focuses on Walter, it feels like it goes somewhere. It’s definitely interesting to see how Walter works through his depression and its impact on those around him. Unfortunately, when we concentrate on Porter, the movie comes across more like a semi-dark John Hughes flick. Heck, it even culminates in Norah’s soul-bearing graduation speech, something that more than slightly reminds me of the Breakfast Club’s coda.

The film manages to balance its two sides acceptably well during its first half, but it sort of falls apart during the final 45 minutes. It simply becomes too implausible and culminates in a finish with a truly odd – and simplistic - twist. The Beaver has its moments and delivers an unusual look at mental illness, but it lacks coherence and consistency.


The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus C

The Beaver appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a decent transfer but not a stellar one.

Sharpness was the main concern, albeit not a major one. At times the flick looked a bit soft, usually in wide images, though some closer elements could be a bit iffy as well. Nonetheless, most of the movie displayed adequate definition. I witnessed no signs of jaggies or shimmering, and the presentation lacked edge enhancement. It also failed to present any print defects.

Orange and teal: those words summed up the film’s palette. We got more teal than orange, but both dominated the flick. These led to limited colors, but the transfer displayed them in a satisfactory sense. Blacks were reasonably deep, and shadows looked fine; they could be a little dense, but not to a significant degree. All of this added up to a good but unexceptional image.

Similar thoughts greeted the low-key DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of The Beaver. Virtually no dynamic sequences emerged here, as the film opted for general atmosphere. Even the score remained subdued, as the music lacked much pizzazz. The subdued mix won’t dazzle, but it suited the material.

Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed natural and distinctive, without edginess or other issues. Music was full and rich, and effects appeared fine; they never did anything to stand out, but they offered decent accuracy. The bland nature of the soundscape made this a “C+” track, but I thought it remained satisfactory.

A handful of extras fill out the package. First we get an audio commentary from director Jodie Foster. She offers a running, screen-specific look at story and character subjects, music, cast and performances, editing, and a few other areas.

At times Foster manages to deliver some decent information about the movie, especially when she looks at the story’s issues and the complications that come with the flick’s tone. However, Foster doesn’t provide a wealth of info, mainly because she goes silent far too often. When she speaks, she adds reasonable material, but all the dead air makes this one a mediocre chat.

Everything Is Going to Be OK delivers a 12-minute, six-second featurette. It includes notes from Foster, producer Steve Golin, and actors Mel Gibson, Jennifer Lawrence, Anton Yelchin, and Cherry Jones. “OK” looks at characters and storytelling, cast and performances, Foster’s work as director, the beaver puppet, and general thoughts about the movie. A few minor insights emerge, but “OK” usually comes across as a program intended to lure us to see the flick; you won’t learn much from it.

Two Deleted Scenes finish the set. We see “Role Play” (1:56) and “Puppet Pull” (3:02). In the former, Meredith speaks to Japanese colleagues about Walter’s use of the beaver puppet; the latter extends an existing sequence to show more between Walter and his VP after he tells her the beaver’s real. Both are fairly pointless and don’t add anything to the story.

We can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Foster. She tells us about how the segments fit into the movie and why she cut them. Don’t expect detailed notes; Foster only chats for a few seconds per clip. She delivers basics and nothing more.

The disc opens with an ad for A Better Life as well as a depression-related PSA. No trailer for Beaver appears here.

With The Beaver, we get an intermittently intriguing take on depression. At its best, the movie delivers an unusual mix of comedy and drama, but it sags too often and doesn’t manage to work in the end. The Blu-ray offers decent picture and audio along with a few average supplements. This isn’t a bad film, but it’s too inconsistent to succeed.

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main