Stacia and I saw The Big Year movie on opening night, Friday, October 14th, 2011. This movie had received a lot of hype from birders across the country and we were excited to see it. Here is our joint review from a new birder and the self-proclaimed “birdfreak”.
NOTICE: There are no spoilers so you’re safe to read on!
The Big Year is based off the entertaining book of the same name. Characters and factual information have been changed but that is OK. This movie is fiction but for the most part the birds and locations are accurate with liberties taken to portray “odd” birding locations (like Attu and the Brownsville dump). And as fiction, some birds way out of range can be overlooked since we’ve all been surprised to find birds that by all means “shouldn’t be here”.
We arrived at the theatre when the previews had started but only a handful of people were already seated. Definitely not a sell out crowd but we expected that.
From the get go we thought the movie was entertaining. It was really fun to watch something geared towards birders. Being able to say “I’ve been there” and to identify with the characters frustrations of missing birds is part of the enjoyment.
I suspect non-birders will not get as much out of the movie but the comedy was adequate and the story line wasn’t too bad (if a bit predictable).
Some birders are portrayed as a bit nasty (especially Owen Wilson’s) but these are mostly the competitive ones and most of the secondary character birders are polite.
Jack Black was excellent and his story was by the far the best. Steve Martin and Owen Wilson played their roles well and Wilson’s character was easily disliked (as was the intention).
We really loved the portrayals of places like Attu and the search for the Himalayan Snowcock (reminded us of our helicopter ride in Hawai’i).
Also, we loved how birders were shown to be more than “nerds with bins” but intelligent travelers who traverse any terrain and any weather to find birds.
Of course, the movie also rightfully showed how to viably compete in a big year you need big money and a lot of time away from work and family.
We hope this movie helps push birding more into the mainstream. We found it really enjoyable and a great date night.
Addendum: Although we enjoyed the movie, it is definitely not a blockbuster and we never expected it to be one. What we hope is that birders see it and bring a friend. Seeing it with my best friend (my wife) made it that much more enjoyable.