Written by / 10/20/2011 / No comments / , , , , ,

THE BIG YEAR

title: THE BIG YEAR
year: 2011
cast: Steve Martin, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, JoBeth Williams
rating: ***

Though promoted as an ensemble, this really stars Jack Black as a hopelessly drifting thirty-something who loves birds to the point he’s obsessed with “The Big Year,” a competition where bird watchers travel the world to, you got it, watch and count them. Owen Wilson is his arch nemesis, lean and handsome and the best bird watcher around, always one step ahead of our chunky hero, who seems born to lose: which is why he’s so endearing. Steve Martin fills the gap as a successful entrepreneur that befriends Black and becomes a guru of sorts, but that doesn’t mean he lacks his own aspiration of becoming number one birder. But he loses his edge, and the premise is handed entirely to Black, the only character the audience really roots for as he’s up against the overly confident Wilson, who has his own problems at home. The contest itself is a bit shaky, too strange to base a film on... an entire yearlong contest using the honor system is simply ludicrous to buy. But once the characters begin interacting, and with their families and work on the line, things get more interesting: it’s not so much about birdwatchers, but real people. If you’re looking for a laugh-out-loud comedy, this won’t do. But for a feel-good lightweight time-passer, it works just fine. And perhaps if Steve Martin wasn’t in the movie at all, and it only involved Black verses Wilson i.e. the tortoise and the hare, it might have been funnier or sillier in the standard hijinks sense. But the white-capped veteran provides an essential base for all the running around. Though it doesn’t make you want to study birds like SIDEWAYS made you thirsty for wine, one might yearn to travel those lovely spots the birds call home.
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