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Review: The Big Year

Oct. 14, 2011by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: Three avid birdwatchers (Steve Martin, Jack Black & Owen Wilson) compete with each other to see who can win the ďbig yearĒ, which is an annual competition judging who can spot the most species of birds.

REVIEW: THE BIG YEAR is a real event. Yup, every year, birdwatchers (or birders) compete to see who can spot the most species of birds within a chosen geographical area. Interesting, right? Well yeah, it kind of is, and if THE BIG YEAR was an article in Vanity Fair, it might have been a fun read.

But as a movie? YAWN.


Of course, if Fox had its way, youíd never know THE BIG YEAR was a movie about bird watching- based on the early trailers and poster. Heck, you canít really blame them- and sure enough, this is a pretty boring film.

Worse, it isnít funny, which begs the question, how can you make a movie starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black, and the great Steve Martin, and have all the gags fall flat? Amazingly enough, director David Frankel has found a way. THE BIG YEAR is just an appalling film. Frankel probably thought he was making a funny film, but every joke just dies. And once Frankel decides to get a little serious? Whooo boy.

Each of the three leads is cast according to type. Martin plays the older, sarcastic family man (cue lots of gooey sentimentality thatís like something left over from CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2) whoís freshly retired, and taking some time off from his family to pursue his birding passion. Meanwhile, Black plays the ďzanyĒ one, in that heís a 36 year-old slacker who spends his life savings to pursue his bird-watching dream, while his disapproving father (played by Brian Dennehy of all people) looks on. Finally, we get Wilson, playing his usual snarky jackass, no different from his roles in MEET THE PARENTS/FOCKERS/LITTLE FOCKERS, and HOW DO YOU KNOW.


More than anyone, this is a real step back for Wilson, whoís coming off a career-best performance in Woody Allenís MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, but here is back to the shtick thatís made him insufferable in his last half-dozen or so films (his Wes Anderson work being exempt of course). Of all the characters, heís the hardest to understand, with him ditching his Goddess wife (Rosamund Pike, one of the most beautiful women on the planet) to watch birds, while simultaneously treating everyone like dirt. Considering the amount of screen time spent with him, I guess weíre supposed to like him. We donít.

Martin and Black donít do much better, but thatís hardly surprising given their recent track records. Martin is a comedy God, but what is he doing? Heís hilarious in interviews, or when hosting the Oscars, but has he done anything worthwhile since BOWFINGER? As for Black, he hasnít been in much worth seeing lately, but even by his recent low standards this is pretty bad. In fact, the only other film heís been in that might be (marginally) worse is ENVY.

Itís really a shame how much THE BIG YEAR wastes the talents of everyone involved. Besides Martin, Wilson, and Black, this also features Tim Blake Nelson, Rashida Jones, Kevin Pollack, Joel McHale, Jim Parsons, and more but alas, there isnít so much as a chuckle from any of them.

THE BIG YEAR really is a travesty, and probably my pick for the worst studio film of the year (that Iíve seen anyway). Itís a disaster for everyone involved, and a prime example of how a quirky premise, and a talented cast isnít enough to make a good film.

Extra Tidbit: At one point there's a COLDPLAY montage. Yup, that's what we're dealing with here.
Source: JoBlo.com

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9:02AM on 10/14/2011
Based on some of the other reviews I've read this just seems to harsh. I guess i'll make up my own mind.
Based on some of the other reviews I've read this just seems to harsh. I guess i'll make up my own mind.
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+2
12:04PM on 10/14/2011
This didn't seem funny from the trailers, which is too bad, cause this cast is a pretty decent comedic cast. It's just too bad that, with all that talent, they couldn't produce something funny.
This didn't seem funny from the trailers, which is too bad, cause this cast is a pretty decent comedic cast. It's just too bad that, with all that talent, they couldn't produce something funny.
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2:16PM on 10/14/2011
I like Jack Black. I want him to succeed but I saw this coming from a mile away. Not surprised at all.
I like Jack Black. I want him to succeed but I saw this coming from a mile away. Not surprised at all.
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-4
3:23PM on 10/14/2011
Steve Martin hasn't been funny since Bowfinger.
Owen Wilson has never been funny. (Hey, you can throw Zoolander at me all you want, but Wilson was pretty much doing what Stiller was doing.)
Jack Black was funny in.....um....no, no, not the panda movie...oh, wait..he did have one funny scene in Tropic Thunder. Not a big surprise that this movie blows.
Steve Martin hasn't been funny since Bowfinger.
Owen Wilson has never been funny. (Hey, you can throw Zoolander at me all you want, but Wilson was pretty much doing what Stiller was doing.)
Jack Black was funny in.....um....no, no, not the panda movie...oh, wait..he did have one funny scene in Tropic Thunder. Not a big surprise that this movie blows.
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-4
6:21PM on 10/14/2011
I wonder if anyone is actually going to see this movie? Are people really that dumb??
I wonder if anyone is actually going to see this movie? Are people really that dumb??
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+2
2:11AM on 10/15/2011

I really don't understand why they took it in this direction

the concept with that cast could've made for a freakin HILARIOUS movie... but instead they turned it into more of a drama with light comedic touches? what the fuck??
the concept with that cast could've made for a freakin HILARIOUS movie... but instead they turned it into more of a drama with light comedic touches? what the fuck??
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3:40PM on 10/15/2011
I am sad to see this sucks, but am not surprised by it all.

Martin was great in "Shopgirl". More of a drama I know, but he was damn good in it.
I am sad to see this sucks, but am not surprised by it all.

Martin was great in "Shopgirl". More of a drama I know, but he was damn good in it.
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1:09PM on 10/16/2011

Bummed

I saw Steve Martin on his recent banjo tour and before the song Rare Bird Alert, he explained the film and it's premise and how he wrote the song while making it. He really sold me on the film. I want to see it, but this review scares me.
I saw Steve Martin on his recent banjo tour and before the song Rare Bird Alert, he explained the film and it's premise and how he wrote the song while making it. He really sold me on the film. I want to see it, but this review scares me.
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