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Audiences expecting a more exhilarating plot lurking behind the ambiguous title of “The Big Year,” David Frankel’s latest film, may leave theaters disappointed when they discover that the movie centers around bird watching.
That’s right — bird watching.
The creative team behind the new movie does deserve some credit for originality, but the film remains anything but entertaining.
Comedians Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin star as three avid bird watchers who pursue their passion for birding as they each try to break the record for the most species of fowl seen in one calendar year, referred to in the movie as a “big year.”
This record, held by the ambitious Kenny Bostick (Wilson) at the start of the film, proves to cost the competitors more than they anticipated as it creates animosity between them and their families, a dispute that begins the thickening of the plot.
That conflict ultimately becomes a choice each of the main characters must face: family or personal success.
Steering clear of the outrageous humor and wild antics audiences have come to expect from the trio, “The Big Year” reduces these actors to a level that coincides with the film’s PG rating.
The subtle humor of the film combined with its humble theme of love and sacrifice make for a pleasant family movie, but not the typical edgy comedy viewers have come to enjoy from such actors.
Unlike most comedies, the personal moments in the movie were slightly offbeat and awkward at times.
Bostick and his wife, whose marriage begins falling apart because of his obsessive birding, have a few dramatic moments worthy of a daytime soap opera, allowing this film to easily pass for a romantic comedy.
Desperate to accomplish his goals and prove himself, Brad Harris (Black) gives audiences less drama and more laughs with his free spirit.
He sets out for his big year with minimal finances and little support from his father (Brian Dennehy).
As Harris tries to fulfill his dream of winning the competition, more romance is on the horizon after he meets Carol (Rashida Jones), a fellow bird watcher, while traveling.
Even with such a stiff plot, Black’s signature humor, predominant in his other films, does not appear to be completely stifled.
The director employs diverse scenery to add some life to the otherwise dead and unbearably dry story.
Thick woodlands, bleached Alaskan hillsides and skies streaked with flocks of migrating birds add varied visuals to the movie that depicts the main characters traveling across America.
But the bright feathers and cheerful chirping at the heart of the screenplay still yield scenes that ultimately lack thrill and amazement.
The climactic moments in the movie involve the characters spotting rare and exotic birds at which point the audience goes from bored to overwhelmed.
For an older audience that has seen these actors at their best, this movie is sure to be a disappointment because not a single one of the trio delivers an amazing performance.
Despite the film’s original title and plot, “The Big Year” fails to take flight.