Oct. 19, 2011 - Issue #835: Colleen Brown
The Big Year
Plesantly decentImagine sitting down for a leisurely breakfast and reading a New Yorker or Harper's essay covering a subject that's off-the-beaten-path—say, birding. But the essay lacks snappy prose, crackling anecdotes, and that colourful pop. So goes The Big Year, a rather non-comic, non-drama that flits after three men—Brad Preissler (Steve Martin), Stu Harris (Jack Black), Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson)—vying to see the most feathered species in the US in one year.
The movie (adapted from a book about the three-man bird-spotting race of 1998) could've offered humour and intrigue about men's come-in-first instinct, jetting around the country to watch flying birds, conservation versus competition, etc. Instead, it veers close to being The Bucketful-of-Birds List. Only in one sequence, on a remote Aleutian island, does the movie find its personality.
Otherwise, it's so pleasantly decent and hesitant to be complex (Bostick's disliked by everyone except, y'know, he's not, really) that it's rather simple-minded.
Newly retired CEO Brad's so insulated by wealth he's dull, especially when we have to listen to the sentiment-strained call of his grandfatherhood; Stu's voiceover warbles annoyingly on; we almost see enough of the sly, ever-moving Bostick, circling in his loneliness high above, to keep watching. The thrill, though, isn't there, and that clips The Big Year's wings—it just doesn't make an obsession sing to us.
Directed by: David Franke
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