A birdwatchers' "Best in Show," Alex Karpovsky's mock-doc "Woodpecker" stretches its single joke to feature length, earning a beakful of yuks.

A birdwatchers’ “Best in Show,” Alex Karpovsky’s mock-doc “Woodpecker” stretches its single joke — an oddball poet-birder scours an Arkansas bayou for the ivory-billed variety of the titular feathered friend — to feature length, earning a beakful of yuks. Co-written by lead actor Jon E. Hyrns, whose Bill Murray-esque deadpan nut paints his skull bright red in a bid to land his quarry, “Woodpecker” soars above the bulk of low-budget Amerindie farces, if not above the director’s earlier “The Hole Story,” now a minor cult fave on DVD. A rare bird himself, Karpovsky remains one to watch.

In bogus interviews with an Arkansas mayor, sheriff, and pastor, the latter claims that the apparent return of the ivory-billed woodpecker after six decades is the answer to a dying town’s prayers. But satire mainly trails Hyrns’ v.o., following his character Johnny and silent partner Wes (Wesley Yang) through a picaresque bayou they vow not to leave until they find the “ghost bird,” which is faintly visible at the edge of a frame, inspected by purported experts as if it were Zapruder’s. Though soundtrack’s loud instrumentals are suitably parodic, film’s tone is gentle as a birdsong.

–Rob Nelson

Woodpecker

Production

A Spot Creative presentation. (International sales: Greenberg Traurig, New York.) Produced by Dia Sokol, Adam Roffman, Rick Edrich, Alex Karpovsky. Executive producers, Richard Bell, John Andres. Directed by Alex Karpovsky. Screenplay, Karpovsky, Jon E. Hyrns.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen, DV), Marshall Coles; editor, Eric Bruggemann; music, James Lavino. Reviewed at Solstice Film Festival, St. Paul, Minn., June 21, 2008. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Jon E. Hyrns, Wesley Yang.
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