THE BIG YEAR
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
The entire existence of “The Big Year” as a film flummoxed me. It was released with little fanfare, and even in its initial marketing push, the movie was confusing at best. If you don’t believe me, check out the trailer either on the disc or on the internet. You’ll find that it literally tells you nothing about the movie.
That’s because “The Big Year” is about birding, or “bird-watching” to those not hip to the new PC lingo, and more specifically about three very different men attempting a Big Year, which is an annual competition to spot and document the most number of species of birds in a year. Sure, the idea of three men to do a Big Year holds greater meaning and significance, serving as an allegory for each one’s life. But it’s about birding, a niche movement if there ever was one.
Still, by leaving this out of the trailer, presumably for fear of turning off an audience from such a fringe topic, was a mistake. And that’s a shame, because few people saw “The Big Year,” even though it is an undeniably charming movie.
The story follows Brad (Jack Black), a divorced computer programmer who lives with his parents, Stu (Steve Martin), a retiring CEO who wants his freedom from his company, and Kenny (Owen Wilson), the current Big Year record holder trying to cling to his greatness. The three find themselves at odds as they each try to top the other in number of birds spotted.
If you can get past the obviously obscure subject matter, you’ll find a really sweet film beneath. It’s a beautiful shot movie, taking the crew to real locations rather than putting the cast against a green screen for the duration of the production. And the acting is quite superb, with a surprisingly stellar cast. Black, Martin and Wilson each have plenty to give their own story, and director David Frankel manages to make the movie about each one rather than weighting it too far towards a single character. Plus, there are fantastic smaller parts throughout featuring well-known actors like Brian Dennehey, Tim Blake Nelson, Rashida Jones, Anjelica Huston, Jim Parsons and Dianne Wiest.
I saw “The Big Year” in theaters and was mildly impressed. However, watching it again on Blu-ray brought an unexpected warmth. It’s an extremely sweet story told with care and empathy. It’s not a knee-slapper, but it’s got a lot of heart. It’s the kind of film that you might catch on cable, enjoy watching and leave with a happy feeling. Not all movies can achieve that.
But it’s about birding… I still can’t get past that completely.
The Blu-ray comes with the standard DVD which also includes Digital Copy, in addition to the extended cut of the film. There are several deleted scenes and a cute gag reel. “The Big Migration” is a behind-the-scenes featurette that takes a look at the production of the film and how it actually traveled into nature rather than making it on a set, which I definitely respect. There’s also BD-Live extras with additional behind-the-scenes content.