Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

The Big Year

Cinema Monolith: 4/10
IMDb: 6.2/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: **½ out of 4

Released on October 14, 2011
Rated PG
100 minutes

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)

 

16 comments on “The Big Year

  1. You nailed it. I was expecting a rollicking slapstick bit of fun and all I really got was boredom. A Major disappointment. As for Martin I think it’s kind of neat that he went on the road recently as frontman of a bluegrass band playing his banjo. A labor of love I suspect.

    • Todd Benefiel
      6/8/19

      Hard to believe that those three guys together could make such a snoozer, but I guess anything’s possible; I can’t imagine we’ll ever see a sequel. And a few years back Martin and Martin Short had a comedy show they took on the road as well, which I wish I could’ve seen.

      • I know they were touring Canada not long ago.

      • Todd Benefiel
        6/9/19

        Now, if SCTV was touring Canada, I’d be ALL over that!

      • Keep your eyes open for a reunion special. It was filmed here in Toronto and I believe put together by Scorsese. It even lured Rick Moranis out of seclusion to participate.

      • Todd Benefiel
        6/10/19

        YES, I know about that special! It’s supposed to air on Netflix, which I have, so now I’m just waiting to see it before I cancel my subscription. But thanks for letting me know!

  2. They call them “twitchers” over here! Got to admit this film also passed me by like the tail feathers of the lesser spotted woodpecker in full flight.

    Going all male, “the only bird I’d be watching would be the lovely Miss Rashida Jones!” Oh jeez she is lovely. She’d have me singing like a Rose-breasted grosbeak.

    Thanks for watching this film Todd so I don’t have to. 🙂

    • Todd Benefiel
      6/9/19

      ‘Twitchers’ sounds to me like a slang term for drug addicts, but maybe it means they’re addicted to birds instead. And if Rashida was indeed available for viewing, I’d definitely become a twitcher! And especially if she was a Eurasian Blue Tit!

      And…you’re welcome. That’s why I’m here: to steer you away from the dregs of cinema.

      • The Adventures of Todd Banzai Across The 8th Dimensions Saving The World From The Dregs And Mayhem Of Bogus Interdimensional Cinema Nasties.

        Eurasian Blue Tit!…. OOoooooooo Matron

      • Todd Benefiel
        6/13/19

        Ha! The third film in the Banzai film series! And Ooooooooo Matron! sounds like one of those Carry On-like UK sex comedies!

      • Todd Benefiel
        6/14/19

        Ha, NOW I understand the whole matron thing! And yes, take THEM away…and bring them to me immediately!

      • Haha immediately 🙂 He said it loads of times but that one has the the wondrous Babs baps.

      • Todd Benefiel
        6/14/19

        Ahhhh, Babs…

  3. NOHERE4LONG!
    6/15/19

    The movie might be for the birds, but your review is fun! Who’da’ thunk “birdwatching” would have a big enough market to even consider a film on the topic?!? (And those bird stars are all gonna be dead in a few years anyway right?!? LOL). 😉

    • Todd Benefiel
      6/15/19

      I’m guessing films about birdwatching have NO market, so don’t look for a sequel or remake to this one anytime soon. And yeah, all those birds in the film? Dead by 2029.

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