Hundreds of Beavers review – the best live-action Looney Tunes movie ever

Review by Callie Petch @CalliePetch

Directed by

Mike Cheslik


Ryland Brickson Cole Tews


The festival buzz was strong, but can the joke sustain a full feature?


Laughed so loud for so long I’m amazed I didn’t get slapped with a noise complaint.

In Retrospect.

The best live-action Looney Tunes movie ever.

A ruined applejack maker attempts to become a successful fur trapper in Mike Cheslik’s hysterical and inventive love letter to slapstick cinema.

When discussing director/co-writer Mike Cheslik’s debut feature Hundreds of Beavers, the real challenge is to not simply resort to listing off the best jokes. This isn’t as easy as it sounds – Cheslik and co-writer/star Ryland Brickson Cole Tews’ absurdist, inventive, rocket-propelled love letter to slapstick cinema is stuffed with more hysterical gags than entire seasons of acclaimed television sitcoms. The trials of drunkard applejack maker Jean Kayak (Tews), forced to become a fur trapper during a bitter and elongated 19th-century winter after a combination of beavers wrecking his farm and his own drunken hubris, have the non-verbal physical commitment of Sammo Hung, the gag ratio of classic Looney Tunes, and the expert timing of Buster Keaton. All executed on a barely six-figure budget.

Hundreds of Beavers is independent filmmaking at its most creative, exciting, and playful. The animals Jean hunts are played by adults wearing cheap mascot costumes, with insides filled with packing peanuts (except for the fish which are sock puppets). The snowy Michigan and Wisconsin forests from location filming are often styled to resemble matte backdrops that Tews and the mascots flatly gesticulate in front of, like a George Mélliès film or LucasArts point-and-click adventure game. A fun 1930s score, complete with a knees-up musical number to introduce Jean, is supplemented by stock music whose recurrent stings give each phase of the woods – which could risk indistinguishability due to the black-and-white colour grading – their own unique character.

The prospect of a deliberately cheap-looking (though never cheap-feeling) near-two-hour silent comedy won’t be for everyone, but there’s a unique vision and infectious sense of fun and discovery which makes Cheslik’s film more than the sum of its constituent parts, allowing it to blow past the occasional brief lull in the action.

Cheslik’s editing should be studied by any budding student, especially in the payoff to a sequence where Jean tracks down a rabbit that escaped his trap and creatively inscribed its entire life story in the snow. A running gag involving a grumpy merchant Jean does business with who cannot ever seem to hit the spittoon he shoots at always finds new ways to escalate, and there’s a Wrong Trousers-esque log flume chase that’s more inventive than most tentpole blockbusters with 100x the budget. Any time the hard rules of the film are broken for a surprise gag – such as the dialogue mainly being Popeye-esque grunts and screams and groans – my laughter could be heard from three streets away.

Tews excels as the central piece around whom the mayhem swirls with sensational physical reaction instincts. Jean Kayak suffers Wile E. Coyote levels of punishment and bad luck, but Tews has an innate underdog likability to his facial expressions which makes us want to see his wacky schemes succeed – although not so much that watching five adults in beaver costumes boot him like it’s a brawl outside a sketchy Scunthorpe pub ever stops being hilarious.

If that last image doesn’t bring the slightest smirk to your face, then I don’t know what to tell you. Some things are just innately funny, like the image of a grown adult in a bunny costume being sent soaring towards a landing zone…only to unceremoniously be skewered on the makeshift fence next to it. Hundreds of Beavers is an immaculately constructed, gloriously bizarre, wholly unique tribute to that basest of comedy pleasures, made by people whose imagination seemingly knows no bounds.

Published 8 Jul 2024

Tags: Hundreds of Beavers


The festival buzz was strong, but can the joke sustain a full feature?


Laughed so loud for so long I’m amazed I didn’t get slapped with a noise complaint.

In Retrospect.

The best live-action Looney Tunes movie ever.

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