Monday, October 17, 2011

You don't need to be a bird love to enjoy The Big Year

MOVIE REVIEW
Every once in awhile, a movie comes out of nowhere and sneaks up on you with a pleasant surprise. The Big Year is one of those movies. There has been very little promotion for this film which makes one wonder if 20th Century Fox has low expectations for it as well. There has been some talk of disappointment that the film would be rated PG. Why is there such an assumption that a comedy has to be rated R to be funny or any good?
A Big Year is a term that many have never heard of before myself included. It is an informal competition among “Birders” (not “Bird Watchers” as one would suppose) who can see or hear the largest number of species of birds within a single calendar year. This is a big deal as anyone involved in the Audubon Society can tell you. In fact, at the preview I attended, we sat next to a large group of Audubon members. My wife was talking to younger member about the organization and foolishly mentioned that she knew nothing about birds. At that moment, at least three members swung their heads around to see who would utter such ignorance. If you don’t know birds, but would like to see this movie, you have been warned.

The Big Year is directed by David Frankel, the guy behind The Devil Wears Prada and Marley and Me. It stars Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. With a trio like that, you might expect a slapstick comedy, but you would be wrong. It isn’t the funniest movie you’ll ever see, but is very enjoyable. Just don’t expect another Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Instead, Big Year is a hybrid of a road movie, a buddy film and a documentary. And it’s not about birds. It’s about marriage, family and friendship. It’s about following your dream but not to the exclusion of what is really important.

Stu Pressler (Martin) is a high-powered businessman who retires, twice, in order to pursue his dream of a Big Year. On the other end of the spectrum is Brad Harris (Black) who is young and having trouble making ends meet. He struggles with thoughts of failure and dreams of winning a Big Year. In the middle is Kenny Bostik (Wilson) a successful contractor and reigning champ of birding who will do anything to keep from losing his title. In this character driven story, the three actors share the screen time well together and show off each actor’s qualities that we’ve come to know and love.

The Big Year will take you to locations all over the United States from January 1 to December 31 – all in 100 minutes. You’ll experience every kind of weather and season, meet a variety of birders and get up close to lots and lots of birds. The photography is beautiful and the soundtrack is just bouncy enough to keep things moving.
The film features a long list stars playing bit parts including Brian Dennehy and Dianne Wiest (as Brad’s parents), Rosamund Pike (as Kenny’s wife) and JoBeth Williams (as Stu’s wife). Others along for the ride include Anjelica Huston, Rashida Jones, Joel McHale, Steven Weber and Corbin Bernsen.
The Big Year is not only a feel good movie. It’s one that you can take grandma or an older teen and not be embarrassed with the content. And you just might learn something about yourself too.

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