The Big Year [2011] ★★½

“The Big Year” is an enjoyable comedy with an unusual premise about three dedicated “birders” (that’s bird watching) and their attempt to track as many species as possible during a whole year. Stu Preissler (Steve Martin) is a successful businessman ready to retire and spend 12 months travelling around the country in search of birds.  Brad Harris (Jack Black) is his social status opposite, a computer programmer still living with his parents.  All they have in common is birding and they are about to embark on a “big year” competition to see who can spot the most species.  But in order to do that, they must beat one Kenny Bostwick (Owen Wilson) whose record of 732 different species seems to be unbreakable. Right, this sounds silly. And perhaps it is. But beneath this weird premise lies a good-hearted movie about three desperate men’s search for happiness. Birding is their way of escapism, as we learn early on. “The Big Year”, with all its faults is a film that got to me. I wasn’t sure how I would react to such a story at first, and at some point, I had no clue where it was going either. But then it got better and better. I guess it was when the filmmakers made it clear that the film was less about birding then it was about finding joy, no matter how silly it might be. Director David Frankel could have easily ruined it. Instead, he turns the script into an entertaining comedy reminiscent of  “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” or even “Rat Race”. I realize that “The Big Year” will probably be a tough sell to those who don’t care much about birding. But prejudices aside, this is an enjoyable movie with colorful scenery and an even more colorful cast. I suggest you give it a chance.

Rating: 2.5/4

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