The Big Year

Movie Information

The Story: Three birdwatchers head out to attempt a “big year,” where each attempts to see more different species of birds than the others. The Lowdown: Harmless in the dullest sense of the word, and a comedy only in the loosest sense.
Score:

Genre: Birdwatching Comedy
Director: David Frankel (Marley & Me)
Starring: Jack Black, Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, Rashida Jones, Rosamund Pike
Rated: PG

If you read the reviews for The Big Year, you’ll see words like “quaint” or “charming” used regularly, though—in this case—this seems to translate into regular English as “dreadfully dull.” Don’t get me wrong, the film has its heart in the right place and it’s perfectly harmless entertainment, but in the end The Big Year is still a pseudo-comedy about birdwatching. I’m trying to figure out who exactly this movie was made for. Looking at its paltry box-office numbers, the answer might be no one.

The film explains that in birdwatching jargon a “big year” is an attempt to see the as many different birds as possible within a calendar year. Going for this big year, we get: master birdwatcher and worldclass jerk—Kenny (Owen Wilson); über-rich retiree Stu (Steve Martin); and general muck-up-with-a-heart-of-gold Brad (Jack Black). Much of the film revolves competition between the three to see who can have the biggest “big year.” But don’t expect the gut-busting laughs promised in the trailer, since—beyond a few extraneous Jack Black pratfalls—the film’s real purpose is to show the true meaning of birdwatching in all its heartfelt glory. This means lots of life lessons, and schmaltz so thick it’s practically oozing off the screen.

I suppose there’s a whimsical enough movie that could be made about birdwatching, but The Big Year isn’t it. It’s not that the film’s leads are necessarily bad, or that David Frankel’s direction is inherently faulty. It’s more that Frankel—like his last foray into animal-related sentimentality, Marley & Me (2008)—has the sole concern of clawing at your heartstrings. Unfortunately, the film lacks anything like an emotional center around which that kind of response could be built. In place of that kind of resonance, we have little more than an overly sincere tone, characters that are completely one-dimensional, and a doe-eyed Jack Black narration.

The Big Year’s toothless premise and lackluster script make for nothing more than cloying, grade-A pap. While I can’t think of anything the film specifically does wrong, it certainly does nothing right. How fitting that this film about birdwatching turns out to be a complete turkey. Rated PG for language and some sensuality.

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9 thoughts on “The Big Year

  1. DrSerizawa

    Poor Steve Martin. He used to actually be funny. I think Bowfinger was the last one I actually laughed during.

    Is anyone else experiencing Owen Wilson or Jack Black fatigue?

  2. Ken Hanke

    Is anyone else experiencing Owen Wilson or Jack Black fatigue?

    Unless he’s in a Wes Anderson film, I generally have Owen Wilson fatigue. And the only times I can recall really liking Jack Black are School of Rock and Be Kind Rewind.

  3. Jeremy Dylan

    The last things I experienced Owen Wilson in are HEAT VISION AND JACK, FANTASTIC MR. FOX and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. Liked him a lot in all of them.

  4. Jeremy Dylan

    The last things I experienced Owen Wilson in are HEAT VISION AND JACK, FANTASTIC MR. FOX and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. Liked him a lot in all of them.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Odd that I forgot Midnight in Paris. Fantastic Mr. Fox is Wes Anderson, so that’s covered. I have no clue what the other one is.

  6. Jessica

    Heat Vision and Jack is a failed television show pilot that’s available on youtube. Hilarious, but not exactly recent.

  7. Jeremy Dylan

    True, but I did watch it recently. I goes in the bin with LOOKWELL as one of the great series that never was. Of course, its creator Dan Harmon is now employed as the creator and show runner of the best damn sitcom on tv – COMMUNITY.

  8. jane

    Owen Wilson: the most bland, least talented actor around! He’s already getting ‘doughy’ around the edges. Talk about ‘no center,’ or is that his allure…is he not the celluloid version of the rorschach inkblot for the under 40’s? It’s scary out there. Of course, i’m the only one I know who thought Midnight in Paris BORING (caricatures Ernest H., Zelda & Scott…snore!) Give me The Guard any day!
    Jane

  9. Ken Hanke

    …is he not the celluloid version of the rorschach inkblot for the under 40’s?

    I’m not even sure what that means, but then I’m not under 40 or even 50, come to that.

    Of course, i’m the only one I know who thought Midnight in Paris BORING

    I know two others. You should get together.

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