2023 Milwaukee Film Festival: Day Nine “Hundreds of Beavers”

What do you get when you combine a Looney Tunes sensibility, an endless capacity for gags, visual inventiveness on a shoestring budget, a love for silent film, and no concern that a joke may be too juvenile? Something like HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS from the folks who brought LAKE MICHIGAN MONSTER which played like gangbusters to a crowded Oriental Theater for an appreciative audience.

Milwaukee Film provides the following description:

“From the team that brought you LAKE MICHIGAN MONSTER (MFF2018) comes this 19th-century, black and white, no dialogue, supernatural winter epic we think both Tex Avery and Charlie
Chaplin would be proud of. A drunken applejack salesperson
must go from zero to hero and become North America’s greatest fur trapper by defeating, yes, HUNDREDS of beavers.”

It must be said that HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS played like gangbusters on Friday night. People came that were clearly rooting for the film and filmmakers, the equivalent of home field advantage. The cast was there and participated in shenanigans in the aisles during the film. And the enthusiasm was infectious.  Whether the film will play the same at home is an open question.

Yet, one thing that can’t be dismissed is the pure ambition and inventiveness of the film. This is a film that doesn’t just settle on a joke, it actively searches for ways to expand the jokes, make them more elaborate, and build on them. Not every joke lands, but they keep them coming, go to some really unexpected and frankly weird places, and don’t look back. This is a low budget film, but it’s always striving to be cinematic. No one will ever accuse HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS of being the visual equivalent of Kevin Smith. It may occasionally strive for more than it’s capable of, but the excitement of film making is infectious in and of itself. The filmmakers are having fun and darn it if the audience isn’t too.

My one caution is that I found it a little long in the middle as our protagonist learns the ways of trapping and killing beavers. It’s not that there aren’t a steady series of laughs, but it plateaus a little instead of building to crazier and crazier. Or at least it doesn’t build to crazier and crazier at the pace I would have preferred. But otherwise, it’s a crowd-pleaser and a genuine risk taking experiment. Big budget studio comedies would be lucky to approach HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS in laughs and inventiveness.

The 2023 Milwaukee Film Festival runs from April 20, 2023 until May 4, 2023. Tickets can be purchased via MKEFILM.ORG.