Gather ’round, children, and prick up your ears for this tale of redemption.
Mel Gibson’s upcoming film “The Beaver”* represents a make-or-break** comeback attempt for the erstwhile Sexiest Man Alive. Rather than explain the premise, I present the self-explanatory trailer for the film:
I can’t lie. I hope Mel Gibson revitalizes (or at least salvages) his career. I’m not saying I’m an admirer of his on a personal level, nor am I saying I would want to take a road trip with the guy. But he’s made a lot of movies I’ve enjoyed, and, much in the same way that Michael Vick continues to be a compelling football player, or Michael Jackson’s music will always resonate with me, Gibson remains an intriguing performer. He’s talented (you’re kidding yourself if you pretend otherwise), and I like talent.
All of that said, I think the studio behind “The Beaver” is about to botch a
golden bronze opportunity.
First off, the narrator not only beats the viewer over the head with some microwave exposition, but the voice itself sounds a bit amateurish and tacked-on, then suddenly disappears when the Beaver arrives. We probably would have been better off with selected dialogue only as a way of explaining the basic plot of the film.
Secondly, there’s the tone. The movie is a comedy / drama—granted. But the trailer transitions the wrong way at the absolute worst time . . .
The titular puppet makes its first appearance around the one minute mark, and things suddenly get very serious not long after. We get a montage of heartfelt moments with the family (most of which include the puppet), rather than an extended sequence with absurd puppet interactions.
I don’t want to talk to the Beaver! Why won’t you let me in?!? I love you! (Sob.)
Terrible mistake. The pattern should be: Ambiguous setup with no voiceover (forty-five seconds), Beaver reveal (big laugh), upbeat music kicks in as we get a couple of silly moments involving the puppet, plus humorous—not dramatic and emotional—frustration from the family (one minute), then just a hint that this movie also has “heart” at the end (last fifteen seconds). Bam. Blockbuster.
But none of that is as glaring to me as the most obvious change: If you want people to go see this movie, make it about Mel Gibson.
I mean, it sort of is already. We get a taste of that during the first few moments of the trailer, especially the snippet where Mel’s character is staring blankly at the ceiling, and another when Jodie Foster says she’ll keep fighting for the character because she loves him, but there aren’t enough “This IS Mel! Mel’s Character = Mel!” moments.
The alternative would be to go in the opposite direction, framing the movie as an absurd endeavor that bears no relation to reality, albeit one with a strong dramatic element.
Instead, I’m left wondering why the trailer for The Beaver straddles that fence. And also whether Mel Gibson’s beaver voice is supposed to be a Michael Caine impression.
*Yes, that’s the title. Why do you ask?