Review: The Big Year

Owen Wilson, Steve Martin and Jack Black in The Big Year.

Living by the birds

Rating: ***

The Big Year is about a group of people with messy lives who travel America in search of birds. These people are referred to as birders and not birdwatchers. Birding is a sport that includes taking a picture of every bird you find, so that the judges know how many you’ve seen. Big year is a contest where birders have one year to do all their birding and in the end, the one with the highest number gets a trophy and exclusive interviews with notable American magazines such as Rolling Stones and Vanity Fair.

The film stars Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson – three contemporary comedians armed with wacky one-liners that keep you entertained. All these characters live shallow lives.

Martin is a millionaire who runs a successful company full of nuts that cannot make decisions on their own. Hence, his employees follow him everywhere for advice.  Jack Black is employed in a 9-to-5 job that he hates to the core. His father chides his interest in birding while his mother (Dianne Wiest) discovers his aim to be the best at it. Owen Wilson’s character Kenny Bostick is a three-time winner and current record holder. This sets the bar for Black and Martin as they team up to beat him.

Bostick’s marriage is shattered due to his birding obsession. His annoyed wife (played by the ever-lovely Rosamund Pike), continuously rants that he prefers birds over sex. He later corrects her, saying “It’s not about the birds. It’s about being number one.”

Over the course of the film, several life-changing events take place. For instance, Black’s character Brad Harris meets a fellow bird enthusiast, Ellie (Rashida Jones), with whom he falls in love with.

David Frankel is no stranger to comedies. He has worked with Wilson in Marley & Me, and has direct Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. He shows off his expertise by letting his actors improvise scenes. It’s no mystery that Black and Martin are used to improvising their lines. The film also stars Anjelica Huston and Jim Parsons in roles that really didn’t need popular faces. They could have done that scene with B-list stars.

Comedies generally portray characters that rediscover themselves in the turn of events. The Big Year is no different from them.  

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