The Beaver (12A)

Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster

I'm afraid this bizarre comedy drama about a mental crack-up is not going to stamp out the fires Mel Gibson has lit beneath his career.

It isn't offensive, or antisemitic, or actionable, so there's some relief – but it is very embarrassing. Gibson himself isn't bad as Walter Black, the suicidally depressed CEO of a toy company and a family man who's alienated his wife (Jodie Foster) and older son (Anton Yelchin). So far, so glum. Then Walter discovers a beaver glove puppet in a dumpster, takes it home and, instead of killing himself, begins to use it as his personal spokesman (for some reason Gibson affects a cockney accent à la Bob Hoskins). The film's point is that Walter has found a distancing device that enables him to communicate again and revive his company's fortunes – he even does the talk-show circuit. Unfortunately, Foster's treatment is alternately earnest and mawkish, and seems blind to the weird farce of Walter having sex with his wife while wearing his furry friend. It's perfectly legitimate for a drama to explore the struggle with mental illness, but what you're left looking at is a man with his hand inside a puppet and no attempt at ventriloquism. Were Keith Harris and Orville unavailable?

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