The Big Year
|The Big Year|
|Directed by||David Frankel|
|Produced by||Karen Rosenfelt
|Screenplay by||Howard Franklin|
|Based on||The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession
by Mark Obmascik
|Music by||Theodore Shapiro|
|Editing by||Mark Livolsi|
|Studio||Fox 2000 Pictures
Red Hour Films
|Distributed by||Twentieth Century Fox|
|Running time||100 minutes|
The Big Year is a 2011 comedy film starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. The Big Year was directed by David Frankel and written by Howard Franklin. It was based on the nonfiction book The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession which was written by Mark Obmascik. The book followed three men on a quest for a Big Year - a competition among birders to see who can identify the most different species of birds in North America in a calendar year. The film uses the same premise with invented characters.
The film follows three amateur birders who each set out to achieve a Big Year. They are Brad Harris (Jack Black), a computer programmer based in Baltimore; Stu Preissler (Steve Martin), founder and CEO of a New York company bearing his name; and a roofing contractor named Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson), who holds the current Big Year record of 732 birds and is described by others as "the greatest birder in the world". He is so competitive that the other characters sometimes use his name as a kind of expletive: "Bostick!" Harris is handicapped by limited funds and a full-time job; the other two seem to have unlimited time and money to pursue the competition.
Brad responds to his ex-wife's hard-to-swallow engagement announcement by telling his parents he's going to do a Big Year. The same plan is being discussed between Bostick and his second wife Jessica (Rosamund Pike); he fears his record of 732 species might be topped, while she wants him to focus on their wish to have a baby. Stu sits at his Manhattan office headquarters talking fondly of his hobby of birding; he would like to retire but his colleagues want him to stay active in the business.
At his parents' house over dinner, Brad reveals to his father (Brian Dennehy) that he has begun his Big Year and the travel costs necessary to undertake his dream have already been budgeted. His father objects, feeling his 36-year old cash-strapped son should instead focus on his career. Brad is resolute, however, encouraged by his mother (Dianne Wiest).
After receiving notification of a Xantus's Hummingbird sighting, Stu is unsuccessfully tempted by his former company colleagues (Joel McHale, Kevin Pollak) to return to New York City. Unbeknownst to Stu, Bostick arrives at the same house in British Columbia. Bostick again comes into contact with Stu when the two men are aboard a birding boat. Aware he may have a fellow birder on his tail, Bostick engages in antics to worsen Stu's seasickness. Brad befriends a nauseous Stu and also meets for the first time fellow birder Ellie (Rashida Jones).
Bostick's wife attempts to gain her husband's attention back on the home front, informing him she has decided to hire out a rival contractor to begin work on remodeling their home. Stu is also pressured again by his former colleagues, who this time follow him into the field to urge him to return to New York to help close a deal. Reluctantly, he agrees to depart for two days.
The three birders all rush to the Gulf Coast area to view fallout of birds blown in by a storm. Hundreds of birders flock to the area, including Ellie, much to Brad's delight. After spending the day together, Brad and Stu dine together, and Brad discloses he is currently doing a Big Year. Stu decides against sharing the same, fearing his new-found friend may innocently reveal to Bostick his own pursuit.
While birding in Coos Bay, a friend of Brad's (Jim Parsons) comes to discover Stu's growing list and posts a picture of Stu to his website; this makes Brad aware that Stu is pursuing a big year and has seen a whopping 457 species to date. Feeling hurt that Stu did not tell him, Brad divulges Stu's goal to Bostick while the two are aboard a plane on their way to Attu Island. Stu was booked on the same chartered flight but narrowly missed it, held up by his work. His disappointment only worsens watching local news anchormen stating the storm created prime birding conditions on Attu. Meanwhile, a Rustic Bunting is sighted on the island by Bostick. Stu arrives days later and makes amends with Brad, wanting to remain friends. He encourages Brad in his pursuit of Ellie, who also made the trip, and suggests he and Brad team up so at least one of them can break Bostick's record.
Stu and Brad meet up again, finding out each has totaled more than 700 species thus far. They bump into Bostick but are soon outwitted by him in their attempt to a see a Blue-footed Booby, causing the two to form an alliance, with the well-heeled Stu paying for a helicopter ride to see snowcocks. Upon landing, Brad is notified that his father has suffered a heart attack; he returns home to be with him. His father comes to affectionately view his son with a newfound respect after hearing Brad explain his love for his favorite bird, the American Golden Plover. He accompanies Brad into the snowy woods and helps him locate a Great Grey Owl.
Bostick's wife awaits him at a fertility clinic, but despite their agreement, Bostick cancels on her at the last minute after being notified that a Snowy Owl, his most coveted bird, has been spotted and would help him break his own record. When he returns home, he finds the constant traveling has been too taxing on his wife, whom he suspects of being involved with the contractor working on their home, despite her denials. She tells him she still loves him but doesn't want to be his wife any more.
As the year draws to a close Stu enjoys his newborn grandson, also named Stu; Brad gets a phone call from Ellie saying she and her boyfriend have broken up; and Bostick is all alone in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Eve, still seeking one more bird.
The Big Year results are published and Stu phones Brad to tell him the results. Bostick is first with 755, a new record; Brad came in second; Stu was fourth. Brad opines that "he got more birds, but we got more everything," as he looks at Ellie, who has come for a weekend visit. Stu smiles, looking at his wife.
The film ends with the new couple gazing through binoculars, Stu hiking with his toddler grandson (already enamored by birds) in the Rockies, and Bostick on a birding adventure in China, apparently alone.
- Steve Martin as Stu Preissler
- Jack Black as Brad Harris
- Owen Wilson as Kenny Bostick
- Rashida Jones as Ellie
- Anjelica Huston as Annie Auklet
- Jim Parsons as Crane
- Rosamund Pike as Jessica Bostick
- JoBeth Williams as Edith Preissler
- Brian Dennehy as Raymond Harris
- Dianne Wiest as Brenda Harris
- Anthony Anderson as Bill Clemens
- Tim Blake Nelson as Phil
- Joel McHale as Barry Loomis
- Calum Worthy as Colin Debs
- Veena Sood as Nurse Katie
- Corbin Bernsen as Gil Gordon
- Stacey Scowley as Vicki
- Jesse Moss as Jack Lusas
- Kevin Pollak as Jim Gittelson
- Barry Shabaka Henley as Dr. Neil Kramer
- Andrew Wilson as Mike Shin
- Al Roker as New York Weatherman
- John Cleese as Historical Montage Narrator
- Steven Weber as Rick McIntire
The film has received mixed reviews from critics. It holds a 40% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus stating: "Though made with care and affection for its characters, The Big Year plods along, rarely reaching any comedic heights." CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade moviegoers gave the film was a "B-minus" on an A+ to F scale.
The film was a box office failure, despite the established stars like Martin, Black and Wilson as the leads. Based on a budget of $41 million, it took in just $7.4 million in ticket sales worldwide according to Box Office Mojo.
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- Official website
- The Big Year at AllRovi
- The Big Year at Box Office Mojo
- The Big Year at the Internet Movie Database
- The Big Year at Metacritic
- The Big Year at Rotten Tomatoes