The Beaver

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Beaver Movie Poster Image
Strange, serious drama is alternately inspiring, appalling.
  • PG-13
  • 2011
  • 91 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 10 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Walter's behavior is both sad and appalling, and yet it's presented as both funny and entertaining for a large portion of the story, and many characters begin to accept his behavior based on its entertainment value alone. But it's a drastic means to an end, and Walter does eventually begin to work on the root of his problem. Meanwhile, his teen son also has some issues; he does pay for his transgressions (i.e. writing and selling black market papers for his fellow high school students), but everything seems to be solved by meeting the right girl.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Walter may get a few laughs here and there, but his behavior is sad and appalling. Teen son Porter is smart, but he worries that he's too much like his father and that he's begun to head down the wrong path. Both characters eventually straighten out, but it takes a drastic event in one case, and falling in love in the other case, neither of which is particularly empowering.


Characters argue from time to time, and there's a general mood of unease. A teen boy bashes his head against a wall in moments of despair. A couple of brief fight scenes: one in which a father accidentally hits his teen son, and one in which the main character fights with the beaver (i.e. himself), resulting in blood and bruises. The movie leads up to one intense scene, with some off-screen gore.


A husband and wife kiss and have sex in bed (nothing graphic is shown). Oral sex is implied, and the couple is also seen kissing through an opaque shower door. A teen couple flirts and kisses.


Language includes one "f--k" and several uses of "s--t," plus "goddamn," "hell," "douche," "turd," "balls," "ass," "crap," "bitch," and "Christ." Additionally the beaver uses British slang like "bloody hell," "bum," "sod," and "tart."


Some Apple computers are on display.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character takes prescription drugs for his depression. In one scene, he gets falling-down drunk and tries to commit suicide. The mother is seen drinking wine with dinner. One teen character mentions buying "weed." There's a mention of "nicotine gum."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie about a troubled family (which stars Mel Gibson and was directed by Jodie Foster) is a very strange drama with some comedy elements; it's disturbing in many ways, and while some will find it appalling, others may find it inspiring. A despondent character attempts suicide, and there's a constant, simmering sense of discontent, as well as some moments of fighting and violence. Language includes "s--t," one "f--k," and other words; there's also some teen flirting and minor sex scenes between a husband and a wife. There's one intense scene of drinking, plus prescription drugs and a mention of a teen buying "weed."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byDaphi July 10, 2012

Dark, disappointing and dull.

(I'm 18)
I just watched this movie with members of my family aged 13+, and I can't say that I would ever watch it again.
At first the concept of a sp... Continue reading
Adult Written bywonder dove June 9, 2012

Surprisingly very good!

I honestly didn't know what to expect from The Beaver, but bought it on a whim and so glad I did! It's a refreshing new take on Hollywood films, witho... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybiovox14 April 20, 2017

New favorite movie

This was such an amazing movie, I just can't explain it, but I'll do my best. This movie is a very serious movie about Schizophrenia. It has very matu... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byKyle broflovski March 19, 2017

Iffy for 14+

The beaver is recommended for a 14 and over to watch this movie because it is a weird movie about adopting a puppet

What's the story?

Walter Black (Mel Gibson) is a business executive and a family man who suffers from crippling depression. His wife, Meredith (Jodie Foster), and older son, Porter (Anton Yelchin), eventually give up on him, and he makes a failed attempt at suicide. But then a plush beaver hand puppet he finds in the trash begins "talking" to him and giving him a means to cope. The beaver allows Walter to reconnect with his younger son, Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart), and helps him succeed at his job. Meanwhile, Porter struggles to break away from his father's influence, using his brains to write black market papers for his fellow high school students, but things go topsy-turvy when pretty valedictorian Norah (Jennifer Lawrence) comes into his life. However, it's not long before everything comes to a head...

Is it any good?

Foster's third movie as a director is nothing if not brave, though what exactly it wants to say and whether it finds the right tone are up for debate. The idea of Gibson -- who, in recent years, has come across in the media as more than a little nutty -- playing a serious character with a talking hand puppet could have been either appealingly outrageous or totally disastrous. But instead the movie comes across as rather safe and sober, with misplaced attempts at humor.

Other characters' reactions to Walter's problem are troublesome, and the media phenomenon behind a successful toy woodcarving kit -- conjured up by the beaver -- rings both totally false and somewhat naive. Oddly, the subplot about Walter's teen son and his quirky relationship with a sad valedictorian is far more compelling than the showier, creepier "beaver" section of the story. Overall, the movie feels like an unbalanced misfire.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays family relationships. Is this a typical movie family? Do the characters and their interactions seem believable? Relatable?

  • At the height of his depression, Walter drinks lots of alcohol. How does it affect him? What are the real-life consequences of drinking?

  • Did you find the beaver funny or disturbing? Does he help Walter, or does he send Walter down another wrong path?

  • What do you think the movie's ultimate take-away is? What audience is it intended to appeal to?

Movie details

  • In theaters: May 6, 2011
  • On DVD or streaming: August 23, 2011
  • Cast: Anton Yelchin, Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson
  • Director: Jodie Foster
  • Studio: Summit Entertainment
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 91 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: mature thematic material, some disturbing content, sexuality and language including a drug reference
  • Last updated: September 21, 2019

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