First Hit: Moderately funny and insightful as to the phenomena of bird watching.
Bird watching may be a passive pursuit but Americans will make a competition out of anything and here we witness the competition at its finest, worst, and funniest.
Brad Harris (played by Jack Black) is working at an IT job he doesn’t enjoy. His real love is bird watching and one day he wants to do a “Big Year”. Stu Preissler (played by Steve Martin) is an extremely successful businessman, loves bird watching, and itches to get out of his CEO role and into doing a “Big Year.”
Kenny Bostick (played by Owen Wilson) is the record holder for “The Big Year” with 732 different North American bird sightings in one year. Birders do not tell each other that they are doing a “Big Year” because they don’t want someone else to know they are trying for the most sightings in a year.
The focus of this film is relationship building and understanding priorities. Brad’s dad thinks Brad is wasting his life being interested in birds. The scene when his dad and he find an owl, the sighting brings reconciliation and resolves years of pain. Stu keeps getting called back by his lieutenants to fix their incompetence but he learns that his supportive wife and new grandchild mean more than his work.
Bostick is obsessive about his record and he is good at counting birds. The issues are that he puts his record over his wife’s wanting to have a baby. The scenes around his decisions reflect cruelty, obsessiveness, and thoughtlessness.
There is humor along the way but I found the film more dramatic than of comedic based. The strongest aspects of this film are informing the audience about how various weather phenomena affect bird migration behavior.
This film has education built into it and during the credits we get to see slides of all the 755 Bostick gets in this new “Big Year.”
Black was good as the guy who is stuck doing a job he doesn’t like but trying to find a way to do what he wants. Martin really fits the role as a cool rich business tycoon who realizes that life is more than his work. Wilson is perfect as the guy who can argue and reason his abhorrent behavior with wit and in the end feel his sadness. Howard Franklin wrote a smart screenplay that was moderately funny. David Frankel’s direction was clear and crisp enough to make this perceived boring subject exciting.
Overall: This was a good, educational and fun film to watch.