‘Hundreds of Beavers’ Review: Comedy of the Silliest, Most Creative Variety

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Hundreds of Beavers (2022) © SRH
Hundreds of Beavers (2022) © SRH

A lumberjack. A bunch of people in animal costumes. The slapstick sensibilities of the 1920s with all the crudeness of a Looney Tunes cartoon. Throw it all together and chuck it in the Wisconsin winter, and what do you get? Hundreds of Beavers.

★★★★☆

It’s somewhat rare these days that a film gets buzz purely through word of mouth. But as it has cycled through festivals, garnered a number of five star Letterboxd reviews, and now finally makes its way to UK cinemas on the 9th July, Mike Chislow and Ryland Brickson Cole Tews’ Hundreds of Beavers is a film that demands to be talked about. Then, once it’s been talked about, it has to be seen to be believed. It should not exist, and yet, in its ridiculous existence, it brings some much-needed fun to the current cinema slate. 

Set in the 19th Century, applejack salesman Jean Kayak (Ryland Brickson Cole Tews)—introduced to us in an elaborate musical number—finds himself stranded in the Wisconsin winter without a home, without supplies, and without any more applejack. Forced to hunt to survive, Kayak attempts a number of ruses to lure woodland creatures into his traps. He finds himself in a cycle of failure until a master fur trapper (West Tank) takes him under his wing. With his newfound skills, Kayak seeks to kill hundreds of beavers in order to secure supplies from the local merchant (Doug Mancheski), along with the hand of his daughter (Olivia Graves). However, when some beaver detectives start getting wind of Kayak’s traps, he finds himself having to answer for his crimes…

It’s easy to compare the structure of the narrative with that of a Looney Tunes cartoon—Jean Kayak is a lonely Wile E. Coyote type figure, and every damn creature in that forest is his roadrunner. Much like those classic cartoons, the simplicity could easily become repetitive. But what prevents it from becoming so are the variations in his traps, and the consistent laughs that come from their failings. In a gag-a-minute film, especially slapstick, the humour can often fall flat, but Hundreds of Beavers will have you roaring with laughter throughout. It’s a relatively thin plot, and as such, we often find ourselves trapped in the loop of Jean Kayak’s cyclical existence (we literally follow a circular map, animated on screen to show us where Kayak is going next). But even when Kayak’s life becomes too mechanical to keep chuckling at, the film’s climax makes the long build up worth it. A whole beaver court, including a beaver judge, beaver lawyers, and the beavers’ answer to Holmes and Watson, makes for one of the funniest and most iconic comedy scenes of recent years.

Hundreds of Beavers (2022) © SRH

The film’s comedy largely rests in visual aspects of the film, and the creative team do a fantastic job of incorporating the aesthetics of each of their influences. It has the classic feel of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin movies: the dialogue cards, use of cut-out animation, practical sets and costumes, and a tone-setting soundtrack by Chris Ryan are vital in cementing this homage. Another key influence is classic video games, such as Super Mario Bros, an aesthetic that Hundreds of Beavers wears on its sleeve—from question marks appearing above character’s heads, to lives and deaths being tallied by an on-screen counter. 

Despite being a low-budget indie film, it never looks cheap, apart from when it intends to (that horse…). Its animation style—thank you Adobe After Effects—certainly has a home-made quality to it, but this only increases the piece’s charm. Much like watching a fan-made movie on YouTube, love that pours out of each frame of the project. This is a film that has been made for the fun of the experience, and the love of the medium.

Hundreds of Beavers (2022) © SRH

That love and commitment is absolutely essential to what makes this work, and there is no better example of this than in Tews’ portrayal of Jean Kayak. In a film that has basically no dialogue, he manages to perfectly communicate who his character is, what his motivations are, and make him a loveable protagonist that you can’t help but root for. The sounds he makes are perfectly pitched, both realistic within the world established and just incredibly funny. 

Hundreds of Beavers is a film that shouldn’t work, and over its needlessly long run-time, there are moments where you worry that it won’t. However, it always manages to pull things back and ultimately, it sticks the landing. This is largely down to the vibrant creativity that is displayed in every scene. Even when the tropes are ones we’ve seen play out before, the choice of humans to play the animals is so conceptually out there that it makes every moment feel fresh. The beaver lawyers in particularly are reminded that CGI will never capture the human condition quite as well as just a man in a costume. 

The Verdict

Unusual and deeply unserious, Hundreds of Beavers is a prime example of filmmakers having fun in a way that is utterly infectious. Its low-budget experimentation won’t be for everyone, but those who can make it through are rewarded with comedy of the silliest and most creative variety.


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