A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Woody Woodpecker, a 2017 release, brings back a popular Walter Lantz character from the annals of mid-20th-century cartoon shorts. The noisy, chaos-causing bird has maintained a strong fan base in South America, particularly Brazil. This film was made to capitalize on that audience, as well as to resurrect him for U.S. audiences. Combining live-action human characters with an animated Woody finds the woodpecker's usual cartoon violence wreaking havoc on real people. Still overblown, as cartoons are, and with no injuries, the destruction (falls, crashes, explosions, gunfire, chases) comes with wild abandon. As an example, a motor home blows up with a live human woman inside; she appears afterward as charred and disheveled as a cartoon coyote or cat. Real-life villains menace Woody and his human friends with a shotgun, knife, poison, and caging. When the movie isn't action-packed, it relies on the bird pooping, farting, and burping for laughs. Language includes "hell" and "butt." A developing father-son relationship is given screen time, an attempt to add heart to the otherwise slapstick conventions. While it's OK for kids who are comfortable with real versus movie action, it's substandard fare.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
WOODY WOODPECKER (voiced by Eric Bauza) is happily living in a tree in the majestic Pacific Northwest wilderness. His idyllic life is about to change. A Big Oil Seattle lawyer, Lance Walters (Timothy Omundson), who has just lost his job, has other ideas for the bucolic setting. He's going to build an enormous house on property his grandfather left him, fill the place with modern conveniences, and then "flip it" and make a fortune. With his empty-headed fiancée (Thaila Ayala) at his side, and his mostly estranged teen son, Tommy (Graham Verchere), grudgingly accompanying him, Lance sets out to bring his crass values and overblown ego to the forest. Woody is devastated. Not only are these humans encroaching on his territory, it looks like they might be there permanently. So the noisy, aggressive bird with a talent for chaos plots and executes a campaign of destruction. Complicating the already charged situation are two bumbling poachers out to get Woody. It seems they have identified him as a nearly extinct "pileated red-crowned woodpecker," so he's worth a lot -- stuffed. It's only Woody's budding friendship with young Tommy and Lance's growing awareness of right and wrong that may save the woodpecker's home, and even the forest itself.
Is it any good?
Inanely cruel villains, an unoriginal story, ham-handed performances, and reliance on farts and burps are the low lights of this awkward effort to bring back a less-than-engaging cartoon bird. The filmmakers' efforts at "homage" are restricted to naming the adult lead "Lance Walters" (Walter Lantz, get it?). Woody Woodpecker (2017) has none of the cleverness, satire, or appealing characters associated with Looney Tunes, The Muppets, and other surviving franchises from decades earlier. Other than a nice performance from Graham Verchere, whose down-to-earth Tommy seems to have stepped in from another movie, there's little to recommend.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in animated movies. In Woody Woodpecker, the cartoon action happens to live people. In what ways, if any, does this change your response? Does a cartoon animal exploding seem funnier or less scary than a real person exploding? Why is it important for families to understand the impact of violence on kids?
What is the meaning of the word "stereotype"? Which of the characters in this movie are stereotypes (or stereotypical) and in what way? Which of the characters of the movie felt real and which felt like cartoons?
Hearing farts and burps and seeing poop are easy laugh-getters. Why are such actions and sounds so funny? Is it always OK for filmmakers and/or storytellers to rely on such lowbrow humor?
- On DVD or streaming: February 6, 2018
- Cast: Timothy Omundson, Eric Bauza, Graham Verchere
- Director: Alex Zamm
- Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Wild Animals
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some action, rude humor and language
- Last updated: November 8, 2019
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