Three men from completely different backgrounds come together for an unlikely passion: birdwatching. They take a year off work and away from family to try to claim the title of World’s Best Birder - the person who can see the most species of bird in 365 days.
Jack Black (School Of Rock, Kung-Fu Panda) acts as narrator and one of the main characters while other comedic heavyweights Steve Martin (Cheaper by the Dozen) and Owen Wilson (Marley and Me) round out a quite naturally funny trio.
You would be forgiven for thinking that this trio, with a combined box office total higher than the Himalayas, would make even the blandest plot funny and exciting. Unfortunately, they don’t. The Big Year feels like just another notch on their family film belts.
One casting flaw is the fact all three play their predictable character types, tweaked from different films. Wilson is the cocky, pompous guy you hate to love; Black is the goofy, down-on-his-luck but loveable loser while Martin continues to play the older-but-full-of-life honest soul who is prone to a few slapstick spills.
A typecast bunch mixed with an abstract plot does not a blockbuster make. It’s hard to imagine where The Big Year fits. Is it aimed at children, or maybe a young teen market? Would adults get a kick out of it? Bird enthusiasts may find it a bit cheesy and stereotypical. The film is trying to stretch itself to appeal to something in everyone.
The saving grace is the cinematography. The editing and the landscape shots are impeccable. This is a film that sees explorers travel the world and it certainly uses every diverse landscape to its advantage.
The bottom line is, in a world of blockbuster action and destruction, being king of the birds is not really aspirational or relatable. This isn’t even king of the birds: it’s best of the birdwatchers.