October 31, 2014
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The Big Year
Don Fowler
3.5 stars
Reviewer's Rating:

(All you ever wanted to know about birding)

Don't call it "bird watching.” The correct term is "birding", and The Big Year will tell you all you'll ever want to know about the hobby...and more.

This unusual little movie explores the lives of three obsessive birders. Owen Wilson plays Kenny, the current birder champion, with 732 different bird sightings in one year. Steve Martin is Stu, a successful businessman who abandons his company to spend "the big year" trying to beat Kenny's record. Jack Black is Brad, a loser in his 30s, divorced, in a low-end job, and still living with his parents. The three are competing to see who can see, or hear, the most birds in one year.

While birders like to take pictures of their sightings, the competition is based on the honor system. This different movie is really for the birds, or people who love birds.

Having earned my Bird Study Merit Badge as a Boy Scout, I have a certain appreciation for birders. If you couldn’t care less, you will probably care less about this movie.

It certainly is not a comedy. It is a serious look at the obsession of the hobby and how it controls the lives of these three men. The joy of the movie is the chance to see exotic birds from Boston to Alaska and everywhere in between.

Birders hop planes at a moment’s notice to catch a glimpse of the rarer species, spending a fortune on planes, hotels, cameras and warm clothing. What we really have here is a birder's travelogue, although most of the movie was shot in Canada. The message driven home in the end is that people pursue their dream at a cost to those they love.

Rated PG, with some minor profanity. Young folks, and some adults, may be bored.


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