The Big Year
Putting Family First
Release Date: October 14, 2011
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Steve
Martin, Brian Dennehy,
Anjelica Huston, Rashida
Jones, Rosamund Pike, Diane
Wiest, JoBeth Williams, Jim
Parsons, Joel McHale, Anthony
Anderson, Corbin Bernsen, Tim
Blake Nelson, Kevin Pollack
Audience: Older children to adults
Runtime: 99 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox/News Corp.
Director: David Frankel
Executive Producer: Carol Fenelson, Ben Stiller,
Producer: Karen Rosenfelt, tuart
Cornfield, Curtis Hanson
Writer: Howard Franklin
Address Comments To:Rupert Murdoch, Chairman/CEO, News Corp.
Chase Carey, President/COO, News Corp.
Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos, Chairmen/CEO, Fox Filmed Entertainment
20th Century Fox Film Corp. (Fox Searchlight Pictures/Fox Atomic/FoxFaith)
10201 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone: (310) 369-1000; Website: www.fox.com
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.
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.