Hundreds of Beavers review – Gold Rush-style spoof silent comedy fires gags at warp speed

Estimated read time 2 min read

The sheer sustained silliness of this spoof silent comedy is what finally compels admiration. It’s like chancing across a bunch of eerily gifted kids by the roadside putting on a bizarrely accomplished, very extended series of magic tricks and circus acrobatic stunts. You could at first find it very startling and funny, then a little dull but finally after an hour or so enter a home stretch of being just stunned at the simple fact that it is still going on, and at such a pitch of crazy inventiveness you can’t help but feel awe at this film’s absolute dedication to gag productivity.

Director Mike Cheslik and his lead actor and co-writer Ryland Brickson Cole Tews mix live action with homespun animation in black-and-white, in the style of Buster Keaton and Chuck Jones’s Looney Tunes creations. There’s a bit of Terry Gilliam in there and maybe the more disturbing work of FW Murnau as well. It’s perhaps not accurate to compare it to Guy Maddin, the Canadian pasticheur, because this film gets real laughs in a way that Maddin, however estimable, mostly does not.

In the snowy North American wilderness of around a hundred years ago, cider worker Jean Kayak (Tews) has his livelihood destroyed when beavers destroy his barrels. So he is forced to be a huntsman and trapper, attempting to capture beavers, rabbits and other creatures all played by grownup adults in comedy furry costumes. He is helped by another trapper (Wes Tank) and a Native American (Luis Rico), but finally encounters a grumpy trader (Doug Mancheski), with whose daughter (Olivia Graves) he falls in love. The trader declares that the price of his daughter’s hand in marriage is … hundreds of beavers.

And so the film bops along from setup to punchline and back to setup – although if Keaton were alive, he might say that the use of animation is a bit of a cop-out as he staged his jokes in the real world with real jeopardy. Well, no matter – this is impressive.


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