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  • Nate Adams

'Hundreds of Beavers' review: Bonkers indie channels Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, and Charlie Chaplin


 

In an era where the modern blockbuster cost upwards of $200 million dollars, it’s refreshing that the ultra-low budget “Hundreds of Beavers,” a wild, irreverent, and independently produced comedy from Mike Chelik and Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, puts most of those movies to shame. Based on sheer creative ingenuity, and a clear admiration for everything “Looney Tunes” or “Tom & Jerry,” this slapstick comedy is of a rare breed. It’s a movie crafted with the utmost care and dedication where every single penny is on the screen and, because of its abilities to do the most with so little, should be an inspiration to rising filmmakers. And if the brass at Warner Bros. had any sense, they would give these guys a blank check to play in the Looney Tunes sandbox (especially after they shelved “Coyote vs. Acme” indefinitely) because the results would be stratospheric.


Shot over the course of four winters in the upper Midwest and imbedded with hundreds, if not thousands of practical DIY effects and costumes, there’s a guerilla style approach to the filmmaking that puts “Hundreds of Beavers” in a rare camp. Considering the very limited nature of its marketing budget and theatrical spend, most are going to stumble upon this film via pals who, if this were the early nineties, would’ve passed the VHS tape around as if it was the second coming of Christ. 

 

And you should approach “Hundreds of Beavers” as you would any cartoon, but the film also pays homage to the silent era of cinema where the actors' physicality, and a lively score, did most of the lifting. There’s not much spoken dialogue in Chelik’s film, just grunts and the sounds of nature as we follow a quirky fur trapper named Jean Kayak (Tews – in a side spitting performance) who, in effort to impress the daughter of a wealthy business merchant (Doug Mancheski), sets out on a quest to bag hundreds of beavers. 

 

Aside from his martial aspirations, Jean has beef with the pesky rodents after they destroyed his Applejack distillery (documented in a goofy opening musical number) and left him with nothing. In the throes of the wilderness, he begins methodically laying traps: at first catching bunnies, until aspiring for something bigger. The animals are amusingly played by adults in giant, human-sized costumes, and they express themselves with exclamation points and punctuation symbols. (Seriously, this film has thought of everything).

 

But catching these woodland creatures will be easier said than done, especially as they are very resourceful and adapt well to their surroundings, something we see Jean hilariously endure over the course of the film's manic 105-minute runtime. He encounters everything from whistling woodpeckers to packs of murderous wolves and his efforts are often dismantled by his own foolishness. The poor sap suffers one absurd blunder after another in his journey to procure the beavers: including violent injuries (pinecones are constantly piercing his feet) and getting catapulted into the air by makeshift slingshots and windmills. But Jean has the energetic prowess of the Tasmanian Devil and always comes back with more perseverance and tenacity than before. If only those conniving beavers weren’t so cunning. 


And this all builds to a ridiculous third act inside a beaver dam that is some of the best use of practical effects and shoestring budget restraints I’ve ever witnessed. I found myself guffawing at what this crew accomplished with practically nothing, and often wondered how they pulled off some of their wondrous cinematic magic tricks. It cements “Hundreds of Beavers” as a larger-than-life and hyperactive embodiment of throwing literally everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. Sure, it can become a little exhausting trying to keep up, but the way Cheslik is able to frame and choreograph these insane sequences, it’s hard not to get lost in the craziness of it all. Once the dust and all the clownish tomfoolery settles, you’ll be picking yourself up off the floor in sheer delight. 

 

Grade: A 

 

HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS is available to purchase and rent on various VOD platforms.


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