Posted October 16, 2011 by whopperjaw in Flicks

Feel Good Flick Never Quite Takes Flight

When we saw the trailer for The Big Year, the David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me) film based on Mark Obmascik’s book about birding, The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession, we figured the movie was going to be an outrageous, offbeat comedy. We figured wrong.

The film has a great cast: Steve Martin stars as Stu Preissler, a corporate executive who heads into early retirement so he can travel the country looking for birds; Jack Black plays Brad Harris, a loveable loser who still lives with his parents but has learned to identify just about any bird in the world by listening to its call; and Owen Wilson is Kenny Bostick, the crafty bird watching champ who has sacrificed more than one marriage in the pursuit of fantastic fowl. (Brian Dennehy and Dianne Wiest portray Jack Black’s parents and then there’s an array of underused talent that includes Kevin Pollack, Joel McHale, Anjelica Huston, Anthony Anderson, Jim Parsons, Rashida Jones and Tim Blake Nelson.)

The plot centers on what bird watchers call “the big year,” the attempt to spot as many birds as possible over the course of 365 days. As current champ, Kenny is constantly worried that someone will eclipse his record. He sets out to have a particularly big year, traveling to remote parts of Alaska and heading to Houston in the wake of a tropical storm so that he can track down rare birds on their migratory voyages. Kenny quickly picks up on the fact that Stu and Brad are also pursuing their own “big years,” even though they both attempt to deny it publicly to keep the obsessed birding champion off guard.

The film never really escalates into full-bore competition. Stu and Brad become fast friends and go on to develop a respect of sorts for Kenny, even as he dupes them on more than one occasion. And there’s a bit of romance in the air, too, as Brad develops feelings for Carol, a fellow birder who shares his love for identifying mating calls. Even though the characters are all likeable and the movie is well-crafted, the story has no real arc to it and the humor is so subtle, it’s practically non-existent.


Whopperjaw is slang for anything slightly askew or out of whack which describes us perfectly. Our online mag covers interesting interviews, craft brews, movie reviews, music news and more.