The Big Year (2011)

The Big Year (2011) – In his retirement, my father has collected hobbies. One of the more recent ones is bird-watching, or rather “birding” as it is apparently called by those in the know. I like birds and will take a moment to look at them if I’m in the vicinity, but I never quite got going out of my way to look at them. Still, I have plenty of my own pastimes that I’m sure others don’t understand. As the opening narration by John Cleese explains a Big Year is the record for which birders spot the most birds in a year. The movie is about three birders going for that accomplishment. There’s Brad (Jack Black), a man living with his parents (Brian Dennehy & Dianne Wiest) who goes for the big year despite having a full-time job. There’s Stu (Steve Martin), a wealthy recent retiree whose former employees (Joel McHale & Kevin Pollack) keep trying to lure him back to his company. Then there’s Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson), the previous record-holder for the most birds sighted in a year, looking to best his own record. Some talented actors like Anjelica Huston, Jim Parsons, Tim Blake Nelson, Barry Shabaka Henley, and Anthony Anderson fill some smaller roles but they are practically scenery. The three romantic interests for the leads (Rashida Jones, JoBeth Williams, & Rosamund Pike) are a little better but not by much. The film does get into some fairly good characterization of its three leads, and Black, Martin, and Wilson are good as developing the roles. That being said there’s not a whole lot that happens in The Big Year. People go out looking for birds for an hour and a half. Good character work and some amusing moments make it an okay diversion, but not particularly worth seeking out. As beautiful as our fine feathered friends can be, I think perhaps birding is not the most cinematic of hobbies.

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