Woody Woodpecker

Woody Woodpecker is utterly and completely without value. The argument of merit is a slightly different one: Very young children might find the bright and assaultive colors diverting, and certainly, the eponymous bird breaks the fourth wall to interact directly with those children with a lot of silly, self-aware jokes. Such matters, though, are not based in a thing's value, and here is a movie that puts on a show for its target demographic. The more discerning members of the audience - let's say, anyone over the age of three - should be able to recognize the oppressively cynical underbelly.

This is a film in which the primary human entryway into the story is a corporate stooge who wants to raze the portion of the forest in which Woody (voice of Eric Bauza), the woodpecker who is the only remaining member of his genus, happens to reside. Lance Walters (Timothy Omundson) wants to place a country house in that portion of land, but this isn't any old country house. This one is a garish shade of blue that contradicts everything about its surrounding landscape, and it isn't one in which he plans to live with his son Tommy (Graham Verchere) and new, ragingly materialistic wife Vanessa (Thaila Ayala). Instead, he will flip the house for profit, which he will use to build his own law firm after being fired from another one at the beginning of the movie.

This, reader, is the film's idea of a protagonist. His introduction might more reasonably fit that of a snarling and cartoonish villain, but the fact that Tommy resents his father for replacing his first wife with this new airhead of a spouse is supposed to be a good reason for the audience to empathize with Lance's plight. It isn't enough on any reasonable scale of consideration, as Tommy spends much more than half of his screen time whining incessantly about the situation. A random subplot leads Tommy to befriend some children in a nearby town, join their band, and perform a rendition of "What I Like About You" that is just a bit less annoying than any number of high-decibel house security alarms. Lance falls for the local park ranger Samantha (Jordana Largy), apropos of nothing.

One might notice that the review has gone this long without mentioning Woody, and that is because screenwriters Alex Zamm (who also directed) and William Robertson have relegated the bird (which is computer animated and never once a convincing presence onscreen) to being a supporting character in the movie that shares his name. He is still an incorrigible menace, electrocuting several people (Zamm always cuts away before revealing their inevitable deaths), almost assuredly killing one construction worker, and attempting to murder Lance, Tommy, and Vanessa on multiple occasions (once by pouring cement into their SUV and again by way of a gas leak in their RV). His staccato, five-syllable laugh is still the stuff of nightmares. The plot involves the likes of a dastardly pair of backwoods poachers attempting to sell Woody on the black market, a plan that leads to kidnapping and reckless child endangerment. That pretty much sums up Woody Woodpecker, so this review is over now. Good riddance.

Film Information

Timothy Omundson (Lance), Thaila Ayala (Vanessa), Graham Verchere (Tommy), Jordana Largy (Samantha), Scott McNeil (Nate), Adrian Glynn McMorran (Ottis). Featuring the voice of Eric Bauza (Woody).

Directed by Alex Zamm and written by Zamm and William Robertson.

Rated PG (action, rude humor, language).

91 minutes.

Released on February 6, 2018.

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