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THE BIG YEAR stars Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black at his most appealing. They play three competitive American birdwatchers. El Nino is coming to North America. This means the weather will be really good for another record-breaking year in birdwatching. Stu, a wealthy entrepreneur nearing retirement, teams up with Brad, a 36-year-old computer whiz, to break Kenny’s record for most birds seen in one year. Stu’s wife and Brad’s mom support their attempt to do something noteworthy. But, Brad’s father and Kenny’s wife don’t get it. As the competition gets fierce, the three men ponder the question: What’s more important, Fame or Family?

THE BIG YEAR is one of the most appealing and charming movies of the year. It’s funny, entertaining, heartwarming, and even inspiring. The movie extols friendship and family, including the joys of having children. It also shows the harm that can happen when people fail to put family first. However, there’s a fair amount of light and not so light foul language in THE BIG YEAR. So, caution’s advised for older children. Otherwise, THE BIG YEAR will put a big smile on your face.


(BB, CapCap, CC, LL, V, A, M) Strong moral worldview with pro-family message that also extols good relationships between married couples and between children and their parents and a positive, heartwarming view of friendship, plus some pro-capitalist references and strong Christian, redemptive elements include a couple Christmas carols are heard, there’s a metaphorical Christian element to the story that also refers to the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus, a person describes an event as a miracle, and a couple other events have a miraculous feeling about them; 17 obscenities (a few “a” words, a few “h” and “d” words, and one “s” word), one “GD” profanity, three light profanities, man spells out S-O-B, one man flips another man “the bird,” and man gets seasick twice; light comical violence such as a couple pratfalls and a skier slams into another skier; no sexual content; no nudity; alcohol use; no smoking or drugs; and, man deceives competitors into thinking he’s going one place when he’s really going another place, lying, a couple references to luck, and man lets other people do his work for him so he can gain a competitive edge.

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THE BIG YEAR just may be the year’s most charming comedy. Best of all, it has a strong pro-family message that will warm the heart of all but the most curmudgeonly among us. There’s some gratuitous foul language, however, so caution is required, though the movie is rated only PG. With no foul language, THE BIG YEAR could have been Plus Three Movie.

Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black at his most appealing star in THE BIG YEAR. They play three competitive American birdwatchers. Jack Black, as 36-year-old Brad Harris, narrates the story. In pretty quick, breezy fashion, Brad tells viewers that North American birdwatchers are really excited to see an El Nino weather pattern coming. As the movie’s plot later shows, an El Nino can stir up some interesting storm patterns that will allow birdwatchers, or birders as they call themselves, see many more birds than they normally would. So, birdwatchers are lining up to try to beat the record for birdwatching set by Owen Wilson’s character, Kenny Bostick. In 2003, Kenny saw the most birds ever, 732.

Despite the notoriety he can gain, Brad’s gruff father doesn’t understand Brad’s obsession with the hobby. Brad’s mother is a different story, however. She’s fully supportive. In fact, she’s decided to be her son’s “travel agent,” even coughing up some of the cash for Brad to go traveling across America and Canada, including remote areas of Alaska.

Steve Martin plays Stu Preissler, a top-level entrepreneur nearing retirement. Stu owns a very successful big company he started. Stu figures this year is his year to finally take some time off and try to compete for the title of top birdwatcher. As one British birdwatcher disgustedly says in the middle of the story, “Leave it to the Americans to make a competition out of birdwatching!” Stu’s two young assistants, however (like Brad’s dad), can’t understand why Stu would want to waste his time birdwatching when there are new corporate ladders to climb and new mountains of high finance to assault. Like Brad’s mom, Stu’s wife, Edith, is very supportive. She knows Stu’s been looking forward for years to taking a year off to try to win the birdwatching title.

The big question in THE BIG YEAR becomes, Will Kenny Bostick try to break his own record or will he be content to relax and sit on the sidelines while everyone else goes for the glory? Kenny promises his beautiful third wife, Jessica, who’s trying to get pregnant, he’s not going for the record. He tells her he only wants to do some birdwatching in the El Nino year. As the year progresses, however, it becomes clear to his increasingly annoyed wife that Kenny wants to remain the Number One birdwatcher in the world. Does he want the title badly enough to cheat?

Meanwhile, Brad and Stu strike up a strong friendship during a couple storm outings of extreme birdwatching. Brad opens up to Stu, telling Stu that he’s going for the Big Year and wants to beat Kenny’s record. Stu, however, lies about whether he’s trying to do the same. This lie throws a monkey wrench into their friendship when Brad finds out about it.

Eventually, the story becomes one of friendship, family relationships and obligations, and the wonders of nature.

THE BIG YEAR is one of the most appealing movies Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black have made. It’s charming, funny, entertaining, heartwarming, and even inspiring. Director David Frankel has now made three fine comedies in a row – THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, MARLEY & ME, and now THE BIG YEAR. That’s an impressive record! Best of all, THE BIG YEAR extols family and friendship, including the joys of having children. It also shows the harm that can occur when one fails to put their family first. The question is, “Who will learn that lesson and who won’t?”

Of course, the metaphorical implications of the El Nino weather pattern shouldn’t be discounted. El Nino is Spanish for little baby. As such, it’s a well-known reference to the Baby Jesus. The movie symbolizes this connection by the little grandson that Stu gets to hold for the first time, another shot of a married couple with a little baby, and a couple Christmas carols appearing on the soundtrack at a key moment.

Sadly, THE BIG YEAR contains a fair amount of foul language. The amount isn’t frequent or excessive, but it does warrant a caution for older children. The pro-family message is so strong and so well done, however, that mature media-wise viewers may want to give THE BIG YEAR a chance. As always, please check the details of the movie’s content in MOVIEGUIDE®’s comprehensive CONTENT section before you go.