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Rated 3.2 stars
by 10 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
PG Fun
by Diana Saenger

PG movies have become scarce over the past few years. I get complaints all the time from movie fans about this. More and more filmgoers are growing tired of paying big bucks to watch the same violence and foul language one can see for free on TV. Happily, The Big Year, a funny and entertaining PG-rated movie, drew laughs from beginning to end at the screening I attended. That’s no surprise since the lead actors are Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson.

Three non-friends are experiencing a crisis. Wealthy industrialist Stu Preissler (Martin) is facing a work-crisis. A divorced and broke software techie, Brad Harris (Black), still lives at home. He’s in the middle of a no-life crisis. Despite a lovely wife and beautiful home, Kenny Bostick (Wilson) is struggling with a mid-life crisis. Each of these men seeks something to shake up his life and fulfill any kind of dream in order to escape from reality. All three choose The Big Year, an annual bird watching and counting contest that sends competitors around the world in an attempt to get a peek at the most birds. Although uniting with other birders, these three claim they are not doing The Big Year.

The movie is inspired by Mark Obmascik’s nonfiction book, but I doubt this author ever imagined comedians like Black, Martin and Wilson would be living out his story of beautiful and majestic birds around the world. But that’s the plot: chase a bird in hopes of catching up with yourself and discovering where you really want to be at this time in your life.

As the newbie in this endeavor, Brad displays a lax attitude in the beginning. He’s just enjoying the travel and adventure. But after a few trips out, the bug to win this game catches up with him. He even meets a charming, sharp fellow bird watcher (Rashida Jones) who intrigues him, and she teases his ability to whistle exact bird calls. More than hoping to win The Big Year competition, Stu is mostly taking a break from those left in charge who call him every minute about a decision. He takes a liking to Brad and offers to partner with him, hoping they can forestall Kenny from taking the title.

Kenny comes across as the weakest link in the story, but not because Wilson doesn’t know how to play the character. He’s great while undermining fellow birders or giving them false leads, but the subplot of Kenny’s disinterest in his adorable wife (Rosamund Pike) -- and treating her badly -- fails to ring true. Supporting actors spicing up the story in parts include: Dianne Wiest as Brad’s laid-back mother, Anjelica Huston as oddball islander Annie Auklet, and Brian Dennehy as Brad’s father. 

The movie is very funny and also gorgeous. Filmed in 100 locations -- from 20 below zero in the Yukon to 110 degrees in Florida and through Alaska, Vancouver and British Columbia -- the scenery looks wonderful and inviting. Most of the birds seem real, so it’s difficult to know if they were actual birds or special effects.

It’s heartwarming to see the film’s three main characters attempt to find their way -- and great fun to watch three top comedians rein in their talent here. Another plus involves the movie’s lack of profanity and violence. The Big Year definitely ends up as good PG entertainment.

(Released by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and rated “PG” for language and some sensuality.)

Review also posted at

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