The Big Year

 In the Oscar winning film Adaptation, Nicholas Cage plays screenwriter Charlie Kauffman, who is tormented about how to adapt a book about flowers into a screenplay. I feel he would be just as frustrated with The Big Year, which is a movie about birds. Assembled here is the year's worst cast; three untalented and unfunny actors, Steve Martin (The Pink Panther), Jack Black (Gulliver’s Travels) and Owen Wilson (Hall Pass), join forces to deliver what is obvious by the trailer alone, one of the most uneventful and boring movies in 2011. While many may look at director David Frankel, who did The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me, and say “but those were good”, they are forgetting his direction had absolutely nothing to do with the success or the connection those films had with the audience.

Only the Americans could turn bird watching into a sport” says one annoyed Englishman watching three grown men fight over trying to see a rare bird first. A Big Year is the sport of seeing as many birds from Jan 1st to Dec 31st in North America. Reigning record holder of 732 birds is Kenny Bostick (Wilson), who is terrified every year that someone will break his record, so much that he is having marital problems because of his obsession. Stu (Martin) is the CEO of a company he created, twice retired, and now for good, so he can finally do a big year. Brad Harris (Black) is a 36 year old, broke divorcee who is spending every dime on trying to break the record.

  This script is about as exciting as watching paint dry and one thing it omitted that I expected to see more of was the physical comedy Martin and Black are known for. If anything, this PG rated film is a feel good movie with more schmaltz and clichés than you can imagine. The variety of co-stars do manage to break up the monotonous bird scenes, none as much as Pike, who is the most interesting and compelling character in the script. Former Oscar host Steve Martin plays the same type of role he was playing 20 years ago; he is a one trick pony, even at this age. Black plays the most grounded character I’ve ever seen him play, which isn’t saying much, just less stupidity that normal.

  With a movie this bad, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that one other terrible actor/producer was also involved in the film's existence--Ben Stiller. If you remember the film Sandra Bullock won her Razzie award for, All About Steve, The Big Year is very similar in plot; where her character was chasing one man around the US, these guys are chasing birds. No scene is more worthy of an eye roll than when Brad Harris explains to his disagreeing father (Dennehey) why his favorite bird is a simple, grayish-brown bird. This project’s biggest problem is the struggle between trying to be a stupid comedy and a Bucket List type movie; it can’t be both and that indecision is at the core of it's demise. Final Thought – Worst cast of the year, in the dumbest plot of the year.

 Grade C-

By: Dustin Chase W.    Editor: Michael Woody

Dr. Donna Copeland’s


I seldom see a movie that I think is boring, and I never thought I would ever see one that I thought was too wholesome, but The Big Year is just that.  Throughout, there were few laughs in the audience, and I just sat still waiting for something interesting to happen.  I can say that the shots of birds and the scenery were fleetingly breathtaking, but then someone would talk, and spoil it.  Obviously, I’m not a birder, but the film shows little of what I hear is the excitement and beauty of the “sport”—or whatever the correct term is.  Much of the time, it seemed like I was watching a home movie of someone I didn’t know.

 The filmmakers attempted to make a story out of it, but the dialog is full of clichés, and the characters stereotypes.  We get the obsessed, competitive birder who does whatever it takes to keep his record, even if it means missing critical family occasions.  We get the successful, understanding, kind father figure with the ever-so-patient wife and adoring children.  We get the young man with an indulgent mother and gruff father, who gradually figures out what he wants in life, and gets it.  The story ends with the most predictable of outcomes.

 The film is billed as a comedy, and the three main actors are well cast for a comedy, but the trouble is, there is very little comedy in the script, so the actors are seen simply running from place to place around the globe, and the considerable talent they have is utterly wasted.

 Bottom line:  Just go for the scenic landscapes and beautiful birds, although there is precious little of either in this film.

Grade:  D