Movie Review of The Big Year
It’s been my experience that the ease of writing a movie review is directly proportional to just how bad the movie is: a really good movie can sometimes take me several days to formulate precisely the right words—-a real stinker seems to bring out all the snarky comments I can muster, at light speed. After seeing ‘The Big Year’, if my theory is correct, I should be able to whip out this sucker in about 10 minutes.
The Good: What we have here is someone’s idea of taking the hobby of bird watching to the next level; the level of competitive bird watching. Yawn. Meet Stu, Brad and Kenny (played respectively by Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson)-three men whose lives, for reasons I have yet to comprehend, are so consumed with this hobby, that they are each willing to take an entire year of their lives and travel all across the entire US to spot as many bird species as possible, and thus be named Top Birder of the year. This includes taking time off from work, missing fertility treatment appointments, and spending every last penny they have to claim that they spotted such elusive creatures as the Snowy Owl and the White Crowned Sparrow. Kenny is the all time champion, and is intent on holding on to the title—you can IMAGINE the pressure!!-and Stu and Brad are bound and determined to take on the challenge of, you know—seeing more birds than Kenny.
If you are, in fact, a “Birder” yourself –a demographic that I can only imagine might not be inclined to spend much time in movie theaters-you might find this movie somewhat entertaining. Well, no. You might find it slightly informative. And because this is the “good” section of my review, I will make an attempt at saying something positive about the film. The scenery in some of the places was beautiful. And some of the birds were interesting. And the lady sitting next to me in the theater laughed like Elmer Fudd—okay, so that has nothing to do with much of anything, except for the fact that it made me laugh–which is more than the movie was able to accomplish.
The Bad: So, here’s a question for you– how do you have three of Hollywood’s leading men of comedy in a movie together, and not be able to make it funny? Oh, I know! I know! Because it’s a movie about competitive bird watching! Look, I certainly have nothing against birds–I actually owned two cockatiels several years ago named Roo and Sydney. I looked at them occasionally and thought to myself “those are some nice birds”. Once in a while, when I’m outside, I notice a bird and think vaguely “there’s a bird….I hope the neighbor’s cat doesn’t eat it”. But that’s pretty much the extent of my bird knowledge or concern. I realize it is a hobby for some people, and I’m not judging….but it seems to me that there are probably a handful of hobbies out there that don’t really lend themselves to “comedic movie material”. As an example, I don’t foresee a great comic masterpiece about woodworking. Or scrapbooking. MAYBE extreme couponing, but it’s a stretch. I just think that when you have a topic that isn’t all that funny, it’s asking a miracle of the actors to make you laugh, especially when the characters themselves aren’t particularly funny— a little obsessed with birds, yes, but otherwise relatively normal guys. And I think a movie about this sort of thing really calls for the characters to be just plain goofy. It might have at least given it a shot. If this gives you an indication of what I’m talking about, I was 53 minutes into the film before I laughed. Yes, I was timing it. When thirty minutes went by and I hadn’t even cracked a smile, I thought it would be interesting to see just how long it would be before the comedy kicked in. And just to clarify, it wasn’t a big laugh. It resembled more of a cough. What pains me even more is the fact that it was Owen Wilson giving someone the “you’re # 1” sign that did it. After almost an hour, I guess I was a little desperate.
The Ugly: And the choices for top honors are A) Steve Martin puking over the side of a boat after being taunted with fish guts and B) Jack Black sitting on a hotel bed in his underwear and black dress socks while snarfing down a bag of pretzels and a jar of peanut butter. I believe we have a tie.
It’s a huge letdown when you are expecting some comedic genius from people who normally make you laugh. At the very least, I was hoping for a few laughs to entertain me for a while. This one just fell flat and the only thing I could console myself with was the fact that my movie ticket was free.