Recently, film buffs were taken with surprise to see DVD ads for the 2017 film Woody Woodpecker. It is quite clear from the preview that we are dealing with a cinematic masterpiece. The film delivers a powerful environmental message as the titular bird discovers his woodland habitat in the process of being destroyed by earth-moving machines. The film deftly moves on to slapstick merriment and high wit as a middle-aged father smacks his wife in the face with a broom while trying to swat the woodpecker. The merriment continues as the wife is repeatedly humiliated, resulting in a hilarious moment of classic comedy when the bird takes a huge poop on her head.
How could such a classic film bypass theaters and go straight to video? That’s the question being asked by filmgoers everywhere. Even more shocking is the hostile critical reception the film has received from reviewers. Common Sense Media accused the film of a weak storyline, “ham-handed performances,” too many fart jokes, and even accused the beloved cartoon character of being “less-than-engaging.”
It’s not as if Woody Woodpecker were an annoying character better left forgotten or anything. Probably no notion could arouse the passions of the masses more than a film revival of the thirties cartoon creation with the annoying yet lovable trademark laugh. Expectations ran high about the greatness of this important new film. The film began production in the nineties but came to a screeching halt due to creative differences between actor Edward Norton and director Tony Kaye, who had agreed to put aside the disagreements they’d had while making American History X, all out of love for their favorite cartoon creation. Things quickly went awry when the director balked at Norton’s Method Acting approach to his voiceover work. “Just get on with it, you overpaid Hollywood bloke,” the director grumbled. “How dare you,” Norton intoned. “I’m getting to the very soul of Woody Woodpecker, to the heart of today’s working man, and you interrupt me.” Kaye responded that his film would be a searing examination about racism in America’s birdcatching industry and that he didn’t give a damn about the American working man. The resulting fisticuffs led to the shutdown of the film and became the stuff of Hollywood legend.
Yet anticipation for the film only grew. Film reviewer Roger Ebert declared, “I only hope that I will live long enough to see this great film realized on the screen. Ebert had read a draft written by playwright Tom Stoppard for director Bernardo Bertolucci, but this version was never made, though the music score by Philip Glass went on to win a Grammy.
Universal Studios paid top dollar for script rewrites from some of the world’s top writers, including Salman Rushdie. As the film’s post-production neared completion, director Alex Zamm spoke with reporters declaring his place among the most noted creators of all time. “Pablo Picasso, you are a fucking joke,” he said. “Leonardo da Vinci is nothing next to me.” It is a measure of the anticipation regarding this film that no one dared speak out and challenge this bold assertion.
Ccertainly, Alex Zamm has an imposing filmography, perhaps the most imposing in cinematic history. Just take a look at the staggering list of credits on Mr. Zamm’s resume. There’s Chairman of the Board, the finest film in the long and storied career of the revered humorist Carrot Top. Then there’s The Bogus Witch Project, Inspector Gadget 2, Tooth Fairy 2, Jingle All the Way 2, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2…A truly astounding list of artistic greatness. Strangely, many of these films have gone direct to DVD. It almost appears someone is trying to shield the people of the world from the great cinema work of this great man.
A strong defense of the film has been launched by the discriminating cinephiles of the world. Recently John Simon, a film and theatre critic noted for his extreme snobbery and discriminating opinions, came out of retirement to hold his own press conference, in which he acclaimed the achievement of the great new film. Though ninety-three years old and quite frail, Mr. Simon felt so strongly about the greatness of Zamm’s Woody Woodpecker that, speaking in a garbled but impressive Croatian accent, he delivered the following proclamation: “Previously, I thought that Ingmar Bergman represented the greatest achievement the film world had to offer. What a fool I was.” Dramatically, he held up the original negatives of Bergman’s films in his quaking hands and tossed them onto a raging bonfire. “Ingmar Bergman, we don’t need your films anymore,” he declared. Furthermore, Simon held up a weathered copy of the first volume of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past in the original French and bellowed, “Fuck you, Marcel Proust! You are nothing compared to Alex Zamm and Woody Woodpecker!”