Title: The Big Year

Director: David Frankel

Starring: Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Steve Martin, Rosamund Pike, Joel McHale, Kevin Pollak, Brian Dennehy, Dianne Wiest

You could age an average of five years depending on what your expectations are when walking into The Big Year. Having a core cast of comedic stars would suggest multiple jovial outbursts. Or at least a smile. Instead, this is simply a nice story about following one’s passion and what sacrifices come with that choice.

The Big Year is all about who can spot the most species of bird in a calendar year. Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson) is the all-time record holder and wants to make sure nobody tries to dethrone him; something that his gorgeous wife, Jessica (Rosamund Pike) reluctantly deals with, for she is ready to start making babies. Although Bostick truly loves his wife, when two unknowns declare that they’re in fact trying to break Bostick’s record, he goes all in to make sure no one will ever steal his precious throne.

One of these unknowns is, Stu Preissler; a major CEO who pulls many Brett Favre type retirements to follow his passion of birding. His wife (JoBeth Williams) fully supports his obsessive hobby but the same can’t be said for Stu’s go-to men (Joel McHale & Kevin Pollack) at his corporate empire. While on this year long expedition, Stu meets the thirty-six year old Brad Harris (Jack Black). Brad realizes that his calling is to be with the birds and he finagles vacation days out of his boss (Anthony Anderson in cameo mode) to pursue his dream. Something his father (Brian Dennehy looking for something to do apparently) just doesn’t get it, but Brad’s mother (Dianne Wiest) fully supports (financially) his every move.

Stu and Brad form a friendship, despite trying to outdo each other on The Big Year tour; which travels all over remote places in the United States. Bostick realizes that he has legit competition for once and resorts to harmless mind games to throw these two unlikely friends off the path.

For the most part, this flick is bland and almost too wholesome for the accomplished cast. Somewhere around the third act, some heartfelt lessons come into focus and there is a notable message for the audience to take in. But was a 101 minute movie using the backdrop of birding really necessary here? Especially when the whole competitive premise makes no sense whatsoever? The rules of birding are contradicted every step of the way and plot points feel forced together rather than seamlessly weaving in. And unless you’re a senior citizen, not one of the seldom jokes will garner any type of reaction.

While Steve Martin can aptly play it straight (which is boring); Owen Wilson cannot, and he comes across out-of-place here. Same goes for Jack Black and he’s forced to trip over stuff and subtly usher in his brand of physical comedy. If you’re going for a more realistic approach, then just forget about trying to work in the shtick the respective actors are known for. Just like the theme of the movie…you’re all in or you’re out. It’s not until the third & final act when the script realizes what it is – and this is the only functioning part of the piece. Getting to that point was tedious and uneventful despite some average storytelling through the lens.

Overall, The Big Year is unbalanced drama with little laughs. The symbolism within the assortment of birds that are scouted by the cast only registers mildly thanks to a script that is unsure how to fill the time. If there was a “thrill of the chase” aspect or something important happening within the subplots (they try with Owen Wilson and Rosamund Pike) then perhaps one could be drawn more deeply into this repetitive script. Basically, just show-up for the last 30 minutes and you’ll be fine and not turned-off.

Technical: C+

Acting: B

Story: D

Overall: D

Review by Joe Belcastro

The Big Year
Bird-brained all the way.

By Joe Belcastro

Joe Belcastro is an established movie critic in Tampa, Florida. As a member of the Florida Film Critics Circle, most of his time is spent reviewing upcoming movies. He also covers news pertaining to the film industry, on both a local and national level as well as conducting interviews. To contact Joe Belcastro regarding a story or with general questions about his services, please e-mail him and/or follow him on Twiiter @TheWritingDemon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *