If you know anything about ‘The Big Year’, you’ve probably asked yourself, “How can a movie about birding (a.k.a. bird-watching) be entertaining?” Well, it can’t. It’s not. And as you may have assumed, it’s about as much fun as bird-watching – unless that’s what you’re into.
Certain movies feel like they’re made for an older audience (e.g. ‘The Bucket List‘). ‘The Big Year’ is one of them. It follows three guys from different walks of life in a year-long competition to see the most species of birds in North America.
Playing the central character, Jack Black is a 40-year-old divorcee who’s decided to spend all of his savings and max out his credit cards in order to fulfill his lifelong dream of doing a “Big Year.” Owen Wilson plays the returning champion who fears someone may beat his record 732 species sightings, so he ditches his pregnant wife for the majority of the year to do the only thing he’s good at – birding. And Steve Martin plays the third major player as a successful businessman who’s finally retiring to live his dream of full-time birding for one calendar year. From different walks of life and there for different reasons, each one is put to the test over the course of their Big Year.
I’m no birder and I’d never heard of the informal competition until seeing this movie, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t as many people out there doing Big Years as the film shows. These people take an expensive, year-long time-out from life by traveling all over North America chasing rare birds. The movie makes this out to be a speedy competitive sport where the same few hundred people keep bumping into one another all over the continent.
Audiences under the age of 60 aren’t going to hate ‘The Big Year’, but they sure aren’t going to love it either. It’s long, slow, formulaic, cheesy, and it drags. Older viewers, however, may enjoy it. It’s a lightweight, feel-good movie that they can connect with – especially the Steve Martin character. But it’s far from something I can recommend to all audiences.