ByKevin Kelly, writer at
Kevin Kelly

The Wayside is a series of articles on movies that came and went without much of a fuss. They’re not exactly Oscar contenders, but just enjoyable movies.

The Big Year (2011) - Director: David Frankel - Starring: Jack Black, Steve Martin, Owen Wilson

Bird-watching wouldn’t exactly be my first choice for an activity to base a movie around, let alone a movie with three big-name stars in Martin, Black and Wilson. Yet, here The Big Year is.

Based on the book The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik, it tells the story of three ‘birders’ from different walks of life who are competing to win The Big Year, a competition to see who can spot the most birds in a single year. Riveting.

Don’t let their unholy obsession deter you from this movie, as what probably happened with a lot of people during its original theatrical release. This movie is a great tale of competition and obsession, with a little bit of soul-searching thrown in for good luck.

Jack Black’s character of the lovable fool is the star of the movie. He’s the most interesting character and undergoes the biggest change, turning from a nerdy programmer to an enlightened man of all seasons. Steve Martin is the retired wealthy CEO. He can easily fund his adventure, leaving behind large business opportunities just to see a blue-footed booby.

Owen Wilson is very convincing as the asshole record-breaker who will sacrifice everything he has to maintain this record. He makes it all seem very hollow.

This movie is an enjoyable experience, for some of its scenery if anything. Set pieces on Attu Island off Alaska and in Jackson Hole, Wyoming serve as excellent backdrops for the story.

The characters wonderfully convey their love of birds, especially Black. They are magnificent creatures when you think about it, able to freely fly around the planet. The variety of the species as well is pretty incredible.

Wow. Maybe this movie got to me a bit too much.

It’s not a laugh-out-loud comedy, far from that. It’s a lighthearted journey with three characters as they live their dream for a year and follow all the joy and turbulence that comes with that.

I’m sure a lot of birders watched this movie with a glimmer of hope in their eyes.


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