HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS is Ambitious as it is Hilarious!

Mike Cheslik’s Hundreds of Beavers which hit VOD today (AND they also just added an encore show at Philly’s own PhilaMOCA)  is one of those films that defies the conventional elevator pitch, which is why it actually took me so long to sit down and check it out based on the available stills and synopsis. The film is like a 90 minute live-action black and white episode of Looney Toons, where a brewmaster’s hard apple cider bar is destroyed, and the destitute alcoholic is then forced to become a trapper for food and sustenance in the 1800s. He then falls in love with the merchant’s daughter and is challenged to collect “hundreds” of beaver pelts to win her hand from her father. The film’s plot is equal parts Wile E. Cyote and Legend of Zelda as our trapper is forced to first level up his clothing and hunting implements, before he can begin attempting to outsmart his prey who is more often than not, one step ahead of him.

Visually the film is ambitious and unlike anything you’ve seen, and if anything it feels like a distant cousin of the DIY masterwork The People’s Joker with its heavily digitized pixelmash collage visual style. The film’s monochromatic color palette and distressed look, feels like a budget necessity more than anything else. It’s a rather inventive way to not only give the film a retro look, but hide the rough edges of the film’s hundreds if not thousands of no-budget VFX shots that should be a commercial for Adobe. Not to take anything away from the piece who’s visuals only help to allow the viewer to descend into this whimsically hyper violent and juvenile world that works mostly because it never takes itself seriously and will definitely make you laugh, like that first time your heard a dirty joke. 

Beavers is cribbing from everything from Charlie Chaplin to Tex Avery to create this world where cartoon physics are real, and animals are in fact grown-ass adults in suits, which adds a surreal and absurdist bent to the humor. The film also does a lot to soften the edges of the violence, not just with the humor that surprised me with just how funny it can be at times. This is all basically thanks to the film’s star Jean Kayak, who’s grasp on the physical humor needed to make this all work is downright impressive at times and reminiscent of a young Bruce Campbell. Hundreds of Beavers is proof that all you need is a great idea and the fearlessness to craft a feature from the digital void that can play not only festivals, but living rooms as well, where I am sure it’s going to be discovered and shared at so many parties for years to come. 

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