Mel Gibson in ‘The Beaver’: What the Critics Are Saying

Blogs are abuzz after seeing the actor perform in his first starring role since 2002.

The buzzed-about Beaver had its big premiere Wednesday at SXSW Film Festival — and critics are mixed about Mel Gibson’s return to the big screen.

In his first starring role since 2002, he plays a troubled man who tries to get his life back on track with the help of a beaver puppet.
The Hollywood Reporter’s John DeFore writes that “viewers who can shake off tabloid preoccupations as they settle into the film will likely be surprised by a picture that (in a way reminiscent of Lars and the Real Girl) turns a crazy-sounding premise into something moving and sane.”
Peter Sciretta at slashfilm says it’s Gibson at “his best,” adding that he delivers “a great performance.” Still, he writes, it just couldn’t get him to “care about the character’s well being or even believe the concept as a whole.”
Tweets MSN movie critic James Rocchi: “A big, jokey premise creates small, quiet spaces to examine depression and pain; it’s unique, and I’m not ... suggesting it’s perfect, but parts of it hurt like hell and earn that hurt.”
Gibson “demonstrates a staunch commitment to his role as an emotionally damaged man driven to excise his troubles by speaking through the titular hand puppet, but the subdued tone brings him down to earth,” notes Eric Kohn of indieWIRE.
Jordan Hoffman at Ugo says that as the film enters its second half “it gets decidedly bleaker, making it clear that mental illness is not something that can be cured with a quick fix. Gibson's performance is front and center the whole time, and deservedly so. His "Beaver" persona is spirited, but it alone doesn't get laughs. It's more sad than anything else, and the moments where Walter cracks through are, indeed, heartbreaking.”
Catherine Shoard of London's The Guardian didn’t think Foster's film and Gibson's acting are "good" or even "at least fine.” She writes: “... At about the halfway point, the film lurches from a The Kids Are All Right-style soap into something closer to Black Swan. Or, rather, it starts oscillating wildly between the two."
But she says Gibson "is undeniably well cast, yet even ignoring the baggage he now shoulders, it's hard to feel moved by his performance: all control and guile, even in the most emotional moments. What it is is, from time to time, is genuinely frightening; the glazed puppy-dog eyes, the pep-talks to himself urging that he 'snatch your joy back from the blood-sucking rabble.' If it weren't for all those kooky cellos [on the sound track], this could be a serial killer flick."