“Pavarotti of the Plains: Don Walser’s Story” is an affectionate but hopelessly amateurish study of the cult-fave country music singer and yodeler par excellence. Docu premiered at Austin’s South by Southwest Film Festival, which prides itself on showcasing regional pix about Texas subjects, but it’s doubtful tyro helmer T.J. Morehouse will find many other equally accommodating venues.
Amiable subject is an aging but still vital performer with special appeal for devotees of traditional country and Texas swing. (Willie Nelson and Joe Ely are among the notables who sing his praises.) Don Walser might be better known, docu indicates, had he toured and recorded more extensively earlier in his career. But the Lamesa, Texas, native opted for a steady gig with the National Guard, and didn’t begin full-time performing until 1990. At its infrequent best, “Pavarotti of the Plains” has the technical polish of a public access cable production. Most of the time, however, it looks and sounds even more ragged. Low point is an extended concert sequence that apparently was captured on a camcorder operated by a fan with a shaky grip.