The Big Year Is a Terrible, Terrible Movie

The Big Year Is a Terrible, Terrible Movie


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The Big Year is a quirky comedy with great actors, lessons about friendship and family and mortality, and… IT IS A TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE FILM. Don’t get me wrong, your mother might watch this movie and say, “Oh, it was cute.” People in the screening laughed somewhat-heartedly every so often. It is not the worst movie ever made—not by a long shot—but its particular brand of mediocrity is odious.

Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black ought to be ashamed of themselves. Martin went over to the dark side of horribly written scripts with mealy jokes and stereotyped characters—scripts apparently found in a very unfortunate time capsule from 1955—a long time ago, a heartbreaking thing for those of us who revered his early work. Owen Wilson and Jack Black also have demonstrated comedic talent—not as much as Martin, but some. That they’ve all ended up together making family-friendly treacle with lame, tame jokes surrounding bird-watching (it’s one ca-razy hobby!) is somewhat tragic. That Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black all signed on to a script that depicts men as competitors with busy lives and jobs and interests and brains, while the women have (or want to have or already had) babies and remodel the house and go shopping (saying things about how men are just competitive and bound to ignore you by nature—oh well!—WHILE THEY SHOP) and get attacked by birds because they cannot part with their Bergdorf scarves—that’s just sad. Oh, yes, there’s one cute lady bird-watcher (so quirky!), but her cute little list of the birds she’s seen in her entire life is less than the Man Birders have seen in a few months. Oh, and she ends up (spoiler alert!) as Jack Black’s cute new ladyfriend. (She’s Rashida Jones, from The Office, and she probably ought to be ashamed of herself, too, except that what can women do but take the roles that are out there? Thanks, Hollywood.)

Furthermore, The Big Year lies about birds. A title card at the outset reads “This is a true story. Only the facts have been changed” (haw!), which apparently is meant to excuse this, but that’s not going to fly (HAW! Help me!). I’ll leave it to a better birder than I to fact-check all the improbable-sounding ornithological information found here, but in one glaring example, Martin, Wilson, and Black go to catch the ferry to Orcas Island to see a blue-footed booby that’s been spotted there. (High jinks ensue!) The blue-footed booby breeds from the Gulf of California down to Peru, and has been spotted (infrequently) only as far north as Southern California. If there’s a blue-footed booby in the San Juan Islands, this climate change thing is really out of control.

People who like birds, people who like funny jokes, people who like women, and people who like good movies are going to be disappointed with The Big Year. And while I’m pulling for you, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, it doesn’t appear that there’s any going back. recommended


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Fnarf 1
I hate to break it to you, but a blue-footed booby was in fact sighted off the coast of Skagit County, in and around the San Juans, in 2006. The last previous sighting was in 1935.

These kinds of strays are uncommon but not unheard of.…
Posted by Fnarf on October 14, 2011 at 6:26 PM · Report this
I friggin' knew it. First off, Steve Martin. I mean, did you ever get stuck on a plane and watch Cheaper by the Dozen? Complete shit.

Second, the trailer revealed it. There are no funny jokes, not even to a nerdass-birder like myself. Bad sign. I'm disappointed, but not surprised.
Posted by STJA on October 14, 2011 at 7:58 PM · Report this
what_now 3
@2 STJA, I've been meaning to compliment you on your icon (and user name[??]). Steller's Jays are, like, the one bird I know because they look so damn badass.
Posted by what_now on October 14, 2011 at 10:15 PM · Report this
Once again my trailer-dar proves reliable.
Posted by madcap on October 15, 2011 at 5:13 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 5
they probably paid each of them something like 5 million dollars. so they did it. who wouldn't?
Posted by Max Solomon on October 15, 2011 at 7:51 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 6
Not a huge surprise. How many nerds-with-binoculars jokes can you have in an hour before they fall flat? Martin already made Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Did they repeat any of the transit and hotel gags?

I don't remember that there was ANYTHING funny in the book (and I'm not going to find my copy and re-read it just to research a movie review comment). It's a niche hobby travelogue/personal-best-quest story, not a comedy. I'm not a serious birder, but my impression is that a big year is more about a probably once-in-a-lifetime personal best than competition. You'd want a high total, but mainly for the same reason you'd want to make it to the top of Mt. Everest, not just to 28,800 ft.

Too bad about the female characters. Although it seems true that women are under-represented among serious list-mongers, rebuttal in two words: Pheobe Snetsinger.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on October 15, 2011 at 8:10 AM · Report this
rara avis 7
I know I'm going to hate myself, but it's almost like I have to see it. I've read the birding errors aren't egregious, but if you're going to make a movie about a nerdy obsession, get your facts straight please. (A blue-footed booby in Washington may not be impossible, but you wouldn't come here to get one for a Big Year.) Too curious to stay away.

At any rate, I have a feeling that watching these three formerly funny people will be more upsetting than any bird mistakes.
Posted by rara avis on October 15, 2011 at 12:28 PM · Report this
what_now 8
@5 Krusty the Clown: "They drove a dump truck full of money up to my house! I'm not made of stone!"
Posted by what_now on October 16, 2011 at 1:37 PM · Report this
povertylaw 9
Isn't this the movie that is "Eat, Pray, Love" for dudes?

Obviously, it's shite.
Posted by povertylaw on October 17, 2011 at 6:15 PM · Report this
Jack Black can't act.
Steve Martin can only act if the director shoots enough straight footage that he can cut all traces of Steve Martin doing his shtick.
Owen Wilson should put on weight and take the pudgy sidekick parts away from Jack Black.
Posted by snidely de witt on October 21, 2011 at 8:59 PM · Report this
While the movie may suck, at least they did their homework before writing it (unlike the author of this article.) A blue footed booby was indeed spotted/photographed in the Skagit area in 2006. Im not a bird fan, but it takes less than 30 seconds of research with a popular tool called Google.
Posted by jinxed on January 19, 2012 at 7:47 PM · Report this
While the movie may suck, at least they did their homework before writing it (unlike the author of this article.) A blue footed booby was indeed spotted/photographed in the Skagit area in 2006. Im not a bird fan, but it takes less than 30 seconds of research with a popular tool called Google.
Posted by jinxed25 on January 19, 2012 at 7:49 PM · Report this

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