Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black star in 'The Big Year': movie review
The new bromantic comedy 'The Big Year,' starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black, about bird-watching doesn't go far enough in portraying the passion of the hobby.
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Birding, at least as practiced by the film's trio, is more than a hobby; it's a passion. But passion is what is AWOL from "The Big Year." The movie's low-key geniality is pleasant enough, but what's missing is the comedy, the nuttiness, of infatuation. When Henry Fonda as a herpetologist in "The Lady Eve" said "snakes are my life," we could laugh at his ardor while still, at the same time, admiring him for it. Despite a few obligatory speeches about the wonder of it all, the men in "The Big Year" are mostly into birding to win big. Birding here is about being the best that you can be at something, which means, in the film's touchy-feely parlance, finding out who you really are.Skip to next paragraph
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But what if who you really are is someone who wants nothing more than to top 732 bird sightings? In the case of Kenny at least, his redemption isn't all that convincing. When all is said and done, Hollywood always admires a winner.
One reason the real-life Big Year competition seems so phony is because it's so confusingly laid out. The point is made that bird sightings are tabulated on the honor system, which seems hard to believe. And despite the film's egalitarian trappings, it's likely that only the well-heeled, or the deep-in-debt, can afford the competition at all. And how did these guys, or at least Stu and Brad, develop their birding expertise in the first place? Brad has a "golden ear" that can identify the most esoteric birdcalls – not something one generally hones while spending quality time in a cubicle or on a couch.
Wilson and, especially, Black are doing their usual genial shtick – mugging for the camera, telegraphing their jokes. Martin tries to inject some soul into his role but, as is often the case when he is in subpar material, he would have been better off writing his own dialogue. He seems too smart for this film.
The large supporting cast for "The Big Year" includes Dianne Wiest, Anjelica Huston, and Brian Dennehy. What a waste that three of our finest actors are utilized as glorified bit players in such an instantly disposable comedy. Grade: C+ (Rated PG for language and some sensuality.)