The Big Year

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The Big Year
Teaser poster
Directed byDavid Frankel[1]
Written byHoward Franklin
Based onThe Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession
by Mark Obmascik
Produced byKaren Rosenfelt
Stuart Cornfeld
Curtis Hanson
CinematographyLawrence Sher
Edited byMark Livolsi
Music byTheodore Shapiro
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • October 14, 2011 (2011-10-14)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$41 million[2]
Box office$7.4 million[3]

The Big Year is a 2011 American comedy film starring Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin, directed by David Frankel and written by Howard Franklin. The film was based on the 2004 non-fiction book The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik. The book follows three men on a quest for a Big Year – a competition among birders to see who can spot and identify the greatest number of bird species in North America (north of Mexico) in a calendar year. The three actual birders were Sandy Komito, Al Levantin, and Greg Miller, who were chasing Komito's prior record. The film uses the same premise with fictional characters.

Filming for The Big Year took place from May to July 2010.[4] The film was released on October 14, 2011, in the United States.[5] It was released in the United Kingdom on December 2, 2011.[6]


There are three seasoned birders who each set out to achieve a Big Year: Brad Harris, a 36-year-old computer programmer based in Baltimore; Stu Preissler, founder and CEO of a New York company bearing his name; and roofing contractor Kenny Bostick, who holds the current Big Year record of 732 birds.

Bostick is obsessively possessive of his record, but his third wife Jessica is concerned; this was supposed to be the year they focused on conceiving a child. She also believes that Bostick's birding obsession is what destroyed his two previous marriages.[7] He is so competitive that the others use his name as a kind of expletive: "Bostick!" Brad is a skilled birder who can identify nearly any species solely by sound, and hates his job maintaining the operational software of a nuclear power plant in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. Living with his parents after a failed marriage, an aborted career at Dell, and dropping out of grad school, he hopes that doing a Big Year will give him a sense of purpose and possibly even make his father proud of him.[8]

Stu is the founder and CEO of an enormous Manhattan-based chemical conglomerate which he built from the ground up, starting in his garage. After decades of corporate success, he is ready to retire to Colorado with his architect wife. Fear of an empty schedule led him to come back from a previous retirement, but now he wants to leave his company in the hands of his two lieutenants. The company is in the middle of complicated negotiations to merge with a competitor, so his two anointed successors keep calling him back to New York for important meetings; to some extent he is a prisoner of his own success.[7] A Big Year has been his lifelong dream and he's pursuing it with the full support of his wife.

The movie portrays various incidents that take place during the Big Year event, while the trio compete with each other and many other birders to achieve the world record of sighting the highest number of birds. Brad and Stu become friends and help each other in the competition, and Brad is attracted to a fellow birder, Ellie. Meanwhile, the highly competitive Bostick resorts to dirty tricks to boost his own count while undermining the others.

As the year draws to a close, Stu is happily retired and enjoying his newborn grandson; Brad develops a relationship with Ellie; and Bostick is alone, as his wife has left him. Stu and Brad, now close friends, congratulate each other on "a very big year", after each sighting 700+ bird species that year. When the Big Year results are published, Bostick won the competition with 755, a new record; Brad came in second; Stu was fourth. Brad opines that "he (Bostick) 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 Brad and Ellie birding together on a rocky coastline, while Brad confesses that birding is no longer the biggest part of his life. Stu is hiking with his toddler grandson (already enamored by birds) in the Rockies. Bostick is on a birding adventure in China, alone and gazing wistfully at a happy couple walking with their newborn child.



Principal photography was done from May 3 to July 30, 2010 in Vancouver.[9] Jack Black's fall on Attu Island was unscripted.[10][dubious ]


The film received mixed reviews from critics. The Hollywood Reporter described it as a "genial, amusing and somewhat unfathomable" film;[8] the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it a "gentle, light-hearted comedy" about "people trying to be the best, following their dreams and enjoying the wonder of birds".[11] It holds a 42% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 103 reviews, with an average rating of 5.1/10. The consensus reads: "Though made with care and affection for its characters, The Big Year plods along, rarely reaching any comedic heights."[12] CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade moviegoers gave the film was a "B−" on an A+ to F scale.[13]

The film was a box office failure, despite the established stars like Martin, Jack Black and Owen 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.


Song Writer Performer
Minor Swing Stéphane Grappelli and Jean Reinhardt Django Reinhardt
(If I Had) A Sandwich With You Dan DiPrima and Alex Marlowe Zombie Bank
Wheel of Fortune Underscore courtesy of Sony Pictures
The Devil Never Sleeps Sam Beam Iron & Wine
Pitkin County Turnaround Steve Martin Steve Martin
Let It Shine Jeremy Fisher Jeremy Fisher
I'll Have the Halibut Dan DiPrima and Alex Marlowe Zombie Bank
Away With Pie Dan DiPrima and Alex Marlowe Zombie Bank
The Dog's Decree - Concerto in C Major Antonio Vivaldi Alexandre Desplat
Viva la Vida William Champion, Christopher Martin, Guy Berryman, & Jonathan Buckland Coldplay
Come Fly Away Jeremy Fisher and Jack Livesey Jeremy Fisher
Surfin' Bird Alfred Frazier, John Harris, Turner Wilson Jr., and Carl White The Trashmen
Blackbird John Lennon and Paul McCartney Brad Mehldau
I Like Birds E Eels
Adeste Fideles Traditional, Arranged by Virginia S. Davidson New York Treble Singers
Silent Night Franz Xaver Gruber, Joseph Mohr and John Freeman Young Bing Crosby
This Could All Be Yours Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner, Brian Rosenworcel and Joe Pisapia Guster
Auld Lang Syne Traditional, Arranged by Guy Lombardo Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians

Soundtrack references:[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Big Year (2011)". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
  2. ^ Kaufman, Amy (October 13, 2011). "Movie Projector: New 'Footloose' could dance circles around rivals". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  3. ^ "The Big Year (2011) Box Office Mojo".
  4. ^ "The Big Year - Movie Database". CraveOnline Media. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
  5. ^ "The Big Year (2011)". MovieWeb. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
  6. ^ "The Big Year (2011)". IMDb. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  7. ^ a b Scott, A. O. (October 13, 2011). "Movie review: 'The Big Year'". New York Times. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  8. ^ a b McCarthy, Todd (October 12, 2011). "The Big Year: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  9. ^ "BCFC Film List". British Columbia Film Commission. October 2, 2011. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved October 2, 2011.
  10. ^ "Jack Black's Unscripted Fall Makes It Into Final Cut". January 12, 2012. Archived from the original on January 26, 2012. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  11. ^ Shalaway, Scott (October 30, 2011). "Get into nature: Birders love 'The Big Year'". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  12. ^ "The Big Year (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  13. ^ McClintock, Pamela (October 14, 2011). "'Box Office Report: 'Footloose' Grosses $5.57 Million, On Course To Dance Away With The Weekend - The Hollywood Reporter". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 16, 2011.
  14. ^ IMDB soundtrack reference [user-generated source]

External links[edit]