Some movies inspire us. Some make us laugh. Some are just forgettable blandfests you’ll never ponder ever again. “The Big Year” falls in that last category. Not because it’s terrible, but because it’s one of those films made for the quick and desperate movie goer. Sorry Steve Martin, but the movie’s about bird watching.
Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black star as seriously intense “birders” who split their time between real life mundane bullshit and their true passion, which is, believe it or not, watching and counting birds. Not shooting them. Not eating them. Not even taking pictures — except in super rare occasions. But counting them. Each birder has their own personal strife happening as they debate whether or not to engage in the Big Year competition with Owen Wilson’s character Bostick, who happens to be the best damn birder around with a bird count of 732!
Steve Martin’s character, Stu Preissler, is not a warm and fuzzy guy, and definitely not funny. No wild and crazy guy from Martin here. But one has to appreciate how Martin has become somewhat of a renaissance man as of late. And as unmemorable as his character is here, seeing Martin as an intelligent bird watcher is completely believable. Eccentric goofball Jack Black plays thirty-something loser Brad Harris who basically pisses off everyone around him with his bird obsession (dad, ex-wife, etc.). Actually, that’s kind of the centerpiece of this movie, how each character’s birding obsession essentially eff’s everything up in their life and pisses everyone around them off. Hell, I’d be pissed too. Birds?! But Black is the life of this film albeit a bit of a going-through-the-motions of a performance. Kind of like, insert funny joke here. Or touching sentimental moment with Dad there.
Black’s budding romance (yeah, I hate that phrase too) with the oft-doe-eyed Rashida Jones never really gains any momentum. I hate to say it, but I miss her as the ultimate brat (okay, no I don’t). The relationship that develops between the two could have really gotten some aw/funny-as-hell moments (think “Juno” or “Knocked Up” for bird lovers). But, instead, it’s just kind of awkward and predictable. And, furthermore, Black’s character’s parents are the ultimate strange parental unit. Having Brian Dennehy and the lovably weird JoBeth Williams would make me obsessed with counting birds too.
Owen Wilson’s supreme reign on excitable assholery is as lackluster as ever before here. He just screws over his wife again and again and busts the balls of fellow birders without remorse. And like Black, Wilson’s performance is color-by-number too. He might as well just wear a shirt that says “Birding Asshole” and stop going through the motions. This dude may be the greatest birder, but at what expense?
“The Big Year” has no outstanding performances, characters, stories or anything. The best thing about this movie is the freaking birds. Yeah, that’s about it. Save your money on this movie and travel the world in search of rare birds instead. That’s what I’m gonna do.
1 hr 40 min