Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on October 14, 2011
Directed by David Frankel
Written by Howard Franklin, based on the book by Mark Obmascik
Cast: Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, Jack Black, JoBeth Williams, Rosamund Pike, Rashida Jones, Kevin Pollack, Joel McHale, Dianne Wiest, Brian Dennehy, Anjelica Huston, Tim Blake Nelson, Steven Weber, Corbin Bernsen, John Cleese (narrator)
I had just finished watching one of my favorite comedies of all time, the noir funfest Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, and began to think about actor Steve Martin’s career; more specifically, whether or not he was still making films, since I hadn’t noticed him starring in any in quite some time. Had he retired, without me or perhaps anyone else knowing? I went to check on-line, and discovered there were a few recent films of his I now remembered, including one I’d actually seen and forgotten about. And then I found one I’d never heard of, with a stellar cast, cryptically titled The Big Year.
On my next trip to the library, I borrowed a copy and gave it a watch that night. So what exactly is the Big Year, and what does it have to do with the movie? Well let me tell you, it’s all about birds. And birds, and birds, and birds. But even more annoyingly, it’s about three ‘birders’ (do not call them bird watchers!) played by Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black, who take part in a year-long quest with other bird enthusiasts to spot as many different species of bird, anywhere in North America, as possible. The winner gets fame, his or her face on the cover of birding magazines, and the satisfaction of spotting a whole hell of a lot of birds.
And trust me, by the end of this film (or maybe even by the end of this review), you’ll be so sick of birds, and birders, and hearing the word ‘bird’, you’ll wish the winged bastards had never been hatched. As for our three leads, Martin is fine as Stu, the most grounded—and by far the most likeable—of the three leads, who doesn’t go overboard with his hobby, and whose understanding wife (JoBeth Williams) lets him do his thing. Jack Black is his usual self playing the lovable loser Brad, whose father doesn’t quite get his passion, while Owen Wilson is stuck with the ‘jerk’ role as Kenny, who ignores his wife and their marriage while he obsesses over holding on to his record-setting Big Year title.
This film was apparently well received by real-life birders, but for me it was just plain dull, though I’ll admit I might be judging it from the wrong side of the fence. Besides Stu, these characters did nothing for me, nor did their fanatical bird-loving behavior; however, I will say I enjoyed Martin and Black becoming friends, and joining forces to best the arrogant Wilson. But beyond that, and the wonderful scenery, and the woefully-underused Rashida Jones, there really wasn’t a whole lot going on here, and not much to recommend. And since it bombed at the box office, perhaps the world isn’t quite ready for a bird movie that doesn’t involve them attacking the residents of a seaside California community. (4/10)