The obvious question to ask of Mel Gibson’s new movie The Beaver, about a man who rediscovers the joys of life when he picks up a discarded hand puppet and starts carrying it with him everywhere — to work, in the shower, for a jog in the pack, etc — is whether this is the circuit breaker capable of rejuvenating the actor’s flailing career.

Mel Gibson no doubt hopes it will help change his fortunes in Hollywood, but when the lights go down and the screen lights up audiences aren’t likely to cast aside his tumultuous off screen life. Not just because Gibson’s bizarre behavior (particularly his anti-Semitic drink driving rant and the abhorrent threats and language he hurled at ex-partner Oksana Grigorieva) aren’t easy to forget, but because his character Walter Black, the protagonist of The Beaver, broadly shares many things with his puppet master.

Black is lonely and depressed. His family, no longer part of his day-to-day life, have come to resent him. He’s down-and-out, burdened by the weight of the world, longing for something to lift him out of the quagmire of his existence.

Maybe these similarities appealed to Gibson. Maybe, if the film ends happily (and it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t) he felt inspired enough to believe The Beaver could mean the same thing to him as the puppet does to Black: the key to a better life. The trailer (watch it below) suggests the Beaver’s first words are “I’m the Beaver, Walter, and I’m here to save your damn life.” But who’s gonna save Mel’s?

Directed by Jodie Foster, The Beaver has been slated for a May 2010 Australian release. To read more about the spectacular downfall of Gibson’s professional and personal life, check out Pete Biskend’s excellent story The Rude Warrior for Vanity Fair.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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