The Big Year—movie review

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
October 14, 2011 4:32 AM
5 Comments
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The Big Year is a star-driven comedy, led by Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black, with an unusual premise about three dedicated “birders” and their competitive attempt to track as many species as possible during a calendar year. But the film itself qualifies as a rara avis: a benign, good-hearted movie about three disparate characters’ search for happiness. The fact that it’s rated PG, and yet is intended for adult audiences, should tell you something about—

—the movie’s nature.

Howard Franklin’s screenplay, inspired by Mark Obmascik’s book, dodges stereotypes and cheap gags as it paints a picture of three men who couldn’t be more different. Martin is a wealthy, happily married executive on the verge of retirement. His colleagues beg him to stay on and steer their company at a crucial crossroads. Wilson is successful, too, in the construction field, but his wife (Rosamund Pike) is less forgiving than Martin’s about his absentee role in their marriage. Black is a divorced working stiff who needs his parents’ financial support, and his boss’ understanding, in order to take time off to travel to far-flung places during his “big year” of birding.

The Big Year is the kind of film that sneaks up on you. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first, and at some point my interest began to wane…then the film circled around and got to me. I think it was when the filmmakers tipped their hand that the movie is less about birding than it is about finding contentment, no matter where you are on life’s journey.

Colorful scenery and an equally colorful supporting cast (including Anjelica Huston as a cantankerous fishing-boat skipper) make this an appealing and attractive experience. The Big Year will probably be a tough sell to those all-important opening weekend moviegoers, but if it sticks around long enough, I suspect word of mouth will keep it aloft for quite some time.

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5 Comments

  • Deborrah | November 19, 2011 2:06 AMReply

    Aside from the funny actors, I like the movie because of the story about bird watching. That is one of my hobbies. And I was surprised that they used Kowa BD series binoculars which I've been also using. The BD performed exceptionally well as he checked off over 740 species including his sought after Great Gray Owl and Pink-footed Goose. Great choice! https://www.facebook.com/kowaoptics

  • mike schlesinger | October 24, 2011 12:54 PMReply

    What a warm, wonderful film. I didn't want it to end. And sadly, it was DOA at the box office. This will become Exhibit A for why the studios shun original ideas...and the next time someone complains about all the remakes and sequels, ask them why they didn't support this charming delight.

  • Bill Brioux | October 19, 2011 4:42 AMReply

    A few months ago, I was way up in Dawson City in the Yukon territories where much of this film was shot. The Klondike Gold Rush town (pop. 1800) is a crazy remote corner of Canada--so far north you can see Sarah Palin's house from there. The locals said Martin, Wilson and Black really took to Dawson and could not have been more relaxed or down to earth.
    By the way, Dawson City has its own film festival. They hold it every Easter. "Last year," one excited organizer told me, "we almost had Sarah Polley here!"

  • jingmei | October 15, 2011 4:09 AMReply

    According to this article this film sounds like worthy of checking out. And hopefully such kind of slightly warmful inspiring "quiet" films supported by big stars gonna be more there.

  • Norm | October 14, 2011 9:29 AMReply

    As long as it isn't worse than "I Spit on Your Grave" or " I Eat Your Skin", sounds delightful...

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