The trailer for The Big Year was very vague, but with a cast including Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson, it didn’t have to be specific – people will go see it just because of these three comedic headliners. Because I went into the film with no expectations whatsoever, I was pleasantly surprised with what I found, although the first half of the movie was funnier than the second.
The Big Year is a contest in which “birders” – people who bird-watch – try to sight the most species of birds that they can in the time span of one calendar year. The reigning champion, Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris), previously had spotted 727 birds, and that is the number to beat, and he is thinking of doing another Big Year so that his record will remain untarnished. His competition includes Stu Preissler (Steve Martin, It’s Complicated) who is about to retire – for the second time – and who is thinking that this is “his year” to win; and Brad Harris (Jack Black, Kung Fu Panda 2), a broke, full-time office worker who has the gift of being able to identify birds solely by hearing them. Stu and Brad eventually decide to team up, as they want to beat Kenny’s record and make sure he does not win the Big Year again this year.
The beginning of the film was really funny – it started off with the subtitles “This film is based on a true story. Only the facts have been changed,” which set the mood for the movie. Using quick cuts and moving at a rapid pace, the film managed to make bird-watching seem interesting and exciting. Around the middle of the movie, though, that pace started to slow, and the film started to take on a more serious tone; there were still a few comedic moments here and there, but not as many as in the first half. Black, Martin, and Wilson are all great in this movie, as are Rosamund Pike (Made in Dagenham) and Rashida Jones (TV’s Parks and Recreation) in supporting roles, but the script starts to peter out a bit after the first half or 3/4 of the film, which is not their fault, obviously.
Maybe see this film. It’s definitely worth a matinée price, and if you know nothing about the sport of bird-watching, you will learn many new facts about it. One could say the first half makes up for a mediocre second, but whether this is true or not will depend on each individual moviegoer’s opinion of it. There were a few random things that bothered me, too. Black’s character would never be able to get that much time off work in “real life” just to go birding – but as it is a film, it requires us to employ some “suspension of disbelief” throughout it.
The Big Year is in theaters now, and is rated PG with a runtime of 100 minutes.
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