If you were to ask most comedians who their favorite comedians are, I would guess that Steve Martin would show up in the Top 10 for most of them. There's no argument over his influence and skills. But for some reason, he chooses horrible movies to do...at least in the last couple decades. It doesn't make sense why the man that brought us The Jerk, The Three Amigos, Planes, Trains & Automobiles and Parenthood has also brough us Cheaper By the Dozen 1 and 2, Bringing Down the House, and The Pink Panther remakes. Now he has The Big Year. So which pile will this be thrown on? Can it be on both?
The Big Year has a great premise: it's a pseudo true story about a real event called The Big Year which is competitive bird watching. Yeah. Competitive. Besides Martin, it also stars Owen Wilson and Jack Black...two actors that were also really funny once upon a time and have perhaps run their course.
A film in the vein of Christopher Guest's classic Best in Show would have been amazing! A comedy lampooning the existence and the people that participate in a bird watching competition sounds awesome! Quickly it becomes apparent that that is not the direction they took. I probably should have seen that coming since it was directed by David Frankel, who did Marley & Me and The Devil Wears Prada. He's very good at giving us comedies that teeter back and forth between very funny and emotionally appealing. The Big Year tries as hard as it can to be more like those films but sadly never does.
See, when you enter into a Big Year, you are away from your family, your job, your life for a whole year. You miss out on an awful lot and the movie partially focuses on that. It also focuses on the beauty of nature and the birds themselves. If you're saying so far all that doesn't sound very funny...you're right. The movie isn't very funny; but that doesn't mean it's not good. But it doesn't do a quality job at pulling you in any particular direction or making you feel a certain way. It just kind of exists. The characters don't make you feel for them completely or even pick a favorite in the contest. There are moments of great filmmaking but not enough to love the movie.
The good news is that none of these usually annoying comedic actors are annoying in the film. They don't branch out into new territory or take any risks with character choices but you get what you'd expect minus some fark and dick jokes from Jack Black. In fact, he gives one of the better performances in the movie since the relationship with his dad, played by Brian Dennehy (Romeo + Juliet) is some of the near tear-jerking you expierence in the film. But overall to use the word "big" in the title of this film is false advertising.
The Big Year (Rated PG)
Gavin Grade: C