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Woody Woodpecker (2017)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/6/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/25/2018

We would all love to believe that movies are made for the sake of art and entertainment. While that may be true in some limited cases, the truth is that movies are made to make money. And part of that strategy involvement determining a target audience for a film. For the most part, this is relatively easy, kids movies are for kids and grown-up movies are for grown-ups, and the reality is that most movies are made for teenagers. But, there are certainly times when pin-pointing the proper demographic for a movie can be a challenge. For example, let's say that you have a character which is meant to be for kids. But, the kids in your audience aren't familiar with the character. However, their parents will be. What can of movie do you make. Well, if Woody Woodpecker is any example, you make a movie which doesn't know what it wants to be.

Lance Walters (Timothy Omundson) is a high-powered lawyer from Seattle. But, due to some ill-advised words about the environment, he loses his job. He sees this an opportunity to check out some land which he inherited and decides to take his fiancee, Brittany (Thaila Ayala), on a trip to the wilderness, much to her chagrin. Just as they are about to leave, Lance learns that he must look after Tommy (Graham Verchere), his son from his first marriage. So, this unlikely trio travels in an RV to a rustic, lake-side locale, where Lance decides he will construct a mansion and then flip it for a profit. What this group doesn't know is that Woody Woodpecker (voiced by Eric Bauza) lives in this forest and he does not like the idea of someone destroying his home. Therefore, while Lance tries to build a dream-house, Woody starts to sabotage it. Meanwhile, Tommy not only befriends Woody, but some local kids as well.

Created by Walter Lantz (now do you get the main character's name?), Woody Woodpecker debuted in 1940, and remained a staple of sort films throughout the 50s and 60s. Those shorts played regularly on syndicated TV for years, and Woody also had some new features play on television as well. But, when was the last time that Woody Woodpecker was relevant in the United States. There was reportedly something called The New Woody Woodpecker Show which ran on Fox from 1999-2002, but I don't recall that. Woody has, of course, made appearances in the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade over the years, and he can be seen around the Universal Studios theme parks, but the question must be asked, do kids in the U.S. have any idea who Woody Woodpecker is. (For the record, my 16-year old did not.) But, apparently, Woody is huge in South America, where he is known as "Pica-Pau". So, despite the fact that Woody Woodpecker was shot in Canada and is in English, it was allegedly made for the South American market, as it opened in Brazil and Peru last year, which would explain the presence of Brazilian model and actress Thaila Ayala in the film.

Given that weird pedigree, it would be understandable if one didn't know what to expect from Woody Woodpecker. Well, what we get is a movie which is taking notes from the "Sassy Family Movie" playbook and rarely strays from it. We have the over-the-top animated character (Woody), the stern authority figure who becomes a target for the animated character (Lance), the uptight female (Brittany), the lonely kid who befriends the animated character (Tommy), some bumbling villains (Scott McNeil and Adrian Glynn McMorran), and the voice of reason with Park Ranger Samantha (Jordana Largy). These wooden characters are placed in a paint-by-numbers story in which Woody torments Lance while evading the poachers who are after him. For the most part, it's all pretty innocuous, even down to the predictable kid-friendly rock music, as Tommy joins a band and performs "What I Like About You". However, Woody's antics sometimes border on inappropriate, as he electrocutes a contractor and attempts to drown Lance in cement.

The question must be asked, will American kids care about this movie? That's difficult to tell. Even if they don't know who Woody is, they will certainly recognize the constructs in this film, as Woody feels a lot like Alvin from the Alvin and the Chipmunks series (even down to his inexplicable musical ability) and the friendship between Tommy and Woody made me think of a very skewed Stuart Little. And these same kids may find some of the physical comedy humorous as well. As for the adults who actually recognized Woody, they will be bored stiff by the sterilized nature of the movie. For me, Woody was always a second-tier character, lagging behind Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes gang, and this movie will do nothing to improve his reputation.

Woody Woodpecker probably damages more trees than the builders on DVD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. These days, I rarely watch DVDs, as most things which I review are on Blu-ray Disc or 4K UHD. When I do watch a DVD, I'm reminded as to why home video technology advanced. But, I must say that I was very impressed with the quality here. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic, especially the reds and greens and the image is never overly dark or bright. There is very little shimmering or pixellation here, and the crispness of the picture could not be ignored. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There were some key moments where the mix showed off sounds coming from around the forest by spreading the audio through the rear channels. The subwoofer is noticeable, but never packed a true punch. The stereo effects showed good separation.

The Woody Woodpecker DVD contains three extra features. "Guess Who? The Evolution of Woody" (6 minutes) traces the history of the character, looking at how the design changed and how the character's tone morphed from his earliest incarnation. "The Making of Woody Woodpecker" (3 minutes) is a brief EPK which provides comments from the cast and creative team, as well as some clips from the movie. "Working with Woody" (3 minutes) focuses on the design of the Woody character for the film, taking into account how the animated version looked, while thinking about how to bring him into a 3D world.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long