Big Year, The (Blu-ray)

Once upon a time, hearing the names Owen Wilson (of this years lauded MIDNIGHT IN PARIS) and Steve Martin (PINK PANTHER 2) meant that you were going to see something funny and smart (think Martin’s tremendous BOWFINGER, or Wilson’s BOTTLEROCKET). But of late the two have let loose a string of mediocrity matched only by their third costar Jack Black’s uneven career. It’s only fitting, then, that the three come together in one of the least anticipated films of recent history, THE BIG YEAR. The trailer for the movie made it look like a lame attempt at humor, a star vehicle made for the masses for no reason other than the almighty dollar… but that trailer is, and was, misleading and really undersold a film that, while not life-changing or edgy, certainly surprised me with it’s soul.

Tim Blake Nelson, Jack Black, and Rashida Jones

THE BIG YEAR is based on a book of the same name and based on an actual event – every year some birders (the correct term for ‘bird watching’ is ‘birding’) start off and try to spot as many species of bird as possible during the calendar year. It is an intense, expensive, and grueling contest that is a far cry from our modern mentality – the goal is the chase. Based on the old-fashioned honor system, the birders are not even required to take pictures of the species they claim to see (though most do). THE BIG YEAR is the story of one particular Big Year, in which two relatively novice birders (played by Martin and Black) try to overthrow the reigning champion (Wilson). The key here is that nobody wants anyone else to know that they’re doing a Big Year hoping that it will give them some kind of edge over the competition.

Owen Wilson, Steve Martin, Jack Black

We are introduced to each of our characters in the opening moments of the film. Each has a hole in his life that he wishes to fill with birding, and a need to feel that he has accomplished something with his life. Kenny Bostick (Wilson), the reigning birding world record holder, is leaving his wife at home to ensure his record is safe as the new year starts. He doesn’t feel conflicted about neglecting her with regularity even though she is in the middle of fertility treatments. Stu Preissler (Martin) is the CEO of a major company who has been planning a big year for a long time but always allows himself to get called back to the boardroom, despite his desire to spend time with his wife in retirement. And our main character, Brad Harris (Black), a full-time worker-bee at a nuclear facility who has failed in nearly everything in life, but who loves birds and trained to identify birds by their call alone.

Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson

This film sadly fell into obscurity with a HORRIBLE box office and terrible all-around reception. Not to say it doesn’t deserve some of the criticisms – it certainly does. The movie isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, it doesn’t push the envelope and we’re left at the end feeling like maybe there was just a little bit MORE that could have been done here. Sadly, the extended edition included on the Blu-ray disc (with a mere three minutes added) does little to solve this feeling. But it is sad that more people didn’t latch on to this movie as a guilty pleasure – I think that would be where I would categorize it. The movie has a surprising amount of heart both in the portrayals of some interesting characters and love for the subject matter.

Tim Blake Nelson, Owen Wilson

But, once the surprise is taken away, you realize why it didn’t succeed. Once again Wilson, Martin, and Black tied on to a movie that just doesn’t utilize them to their full potential. Their performances, while balanced and real, don’t feel original, and we’re left with a product that isn’t bad, but it also isn’t very good.


Video: (1080p, 2.35:1 Widescreen) The video is presented in clarity but there isn’t anything amazing about the presentation. It’s a pretty film set in nature, and the cinematography looks nice on your television.

Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) Family comedies don’t tend to have amazing sound, and this is no exception. The mix is well done and fits the film but isn’t anything to write home about.

Deleted Scenes (17:37) 12 scenes deleted from the movie give a little bit more context. A couple of these deleted scenes really give more to the film – but the pacing of the film wasn’t that great to start with.

Gag Reel (05:58) The gag reel is pretty subpar with no laugh out loud moments.

The Big Migration (18:28) A making-of featurette that features interviews with the cast and crew. The crew on the film was immense due to the number of actual locations used – but that is a good thing – the big migration is actually a reference to this process. The entire film was basically a huge road trip for everyone involved. Some of the interviews provide the type of laugh-out-loud moments that would have been nice in movie.

The disc also features the Theatrical Trailer (01:47).


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