Hundreds of Beavers (2024)

Director: Mike Cheslik

Running Time: 108 Minutes

Starring: Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, Wes Tank, Olivia Graves, Doug Mancheski, Luis Rico

As time draws closer to the one-hundredth anniversary of Looney Tunes, the animated franchise's influence remains clear even while Warner Bros attempt to shelve Coyote vs. Acme. One of the strongest examples is this live-action film set in the 19th century, where an Applejack named Jean Kayak (Ryland Brickson Cole Tews) becomes lost in the frosty wilderness after a drunken night out. Fighting hunger and boredom leads Kayak to become a fur trapper and, in an effort to win the hand of The Furrier (Olivia Graves), he must defeat Hundreds of Beavers.

What co-writer/director Mike Cheslik has crafted is a silent epic brought alive with boundless imagination. Exceptionally crafted feats of physical comedy are delivered with pitch-perfect timing, working in tandem with the cartoon logic to showcase a wicked sense of humour. While some visual effects are iffy and distracting, this works to the films advantage as it adds to the surreal and zany tone just as much as the wildlife animals being portrayed by people dressed in costumes. It all adds to this cartoonish style that is effectively replicated in a live-action format.

In playing the role of Acme Applejack employee Jean Kayak, co-writer/star Ryland Brickson Cole Tews tremendously brings alive this lead character. Whether he is focused on satisfying his hunger, combating loneliness, or trying to impress his crush, the determination is effectively captured in Tews' central performance. The way Jean's plans get interrupted liken the character to Wil E. Coyote, bouncing back regardless of how badly he fails, although it becomes fascinating to see the character grow in confidence and skill as the feature goes on.

For his feature directorial debut, Cheslik approaches the material with a confidence usually seen in more veteran directors. Silent movie tropes are approached with a playfulness sure to brighten one's day, right down to a fun use of the title card, yet this contrasts with a minimalist style which captures unknown terrors lurking within the darkness. It's all part of a narrative that depicts the beavers as mischievous devils, while showing their fight against a hierarchy which profits on their slaughter through civilized means. The deft handling of these various elements is a credit to Cheslik's assured approach, and is a large reason of why this live-action cartoon works so tremendously.

Oozing charm and creativity across the 108-minute runtime, Hundreds of Beavers is utterly one-of-a-kind. This beaver infused lovechild of silent cinema and Looney Tunes is a magnificent example of both influences, courtesy of this inventive piece of slapstick comedy which remarkably sustains a feature-length runtime.

Hundreds of Beavers was released in cinemas as part of a North American tour. It is available on Digital Download from April 15th