Thursday, October 20, 2011

clipped wings

"The Big Year" is, well, an odd bird. (Bad pun intended.)

Seeemingly a comedy with an ace cast, it never takes flight. (There I go again!)

The problem is that the film, from source material by memorist Mark Obmascik, isn't a comedy. Which is a tad confusing, given that it's toplined by Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black as obsessed bird-watchers (that's right) who use this curious pasttime as yet another excuse for male competitiveness. But it isn't necessarily a drama either. It isn't much of anything - a gentle, anecdotal, lovingly filmed nothing.

"There is no there there," to borrow from Gertrude Stein.

The three stars have zero chemistry, but more alarming is that, despite detailed work by director David Frankel ("The Devil Wears Prada" and "Marley & Me") and his scenarist Howard Franklin ("Quick Change"), the film fails massively to engage us in "birding," as it's called.

Nevertheless, it has a handsome cast - Brian Dennehy and Dianne Weist as Black's parents; JoBeth Williams as Martin's wife; Rosamund Pike as Wilson's wife; Joel McHale and Kevin Pollak as two of Martin's business associates; Rashida Jones as a potential love interest for Black; Tim Blake Nelson as another birder; Jim Parsons as a birding blogger - and Frankel has conjured up quite a few cozy, companionable sequences set in restaurants and bars. The tony narration is read by John Cleese.


Ben said...

I don’t get it. This film seemed to come out of nowhere, made in isolaton with no publicity. And then it’s released with virtually no publicity. I guess the studio realized what it had. But, still, it’s odd, considering that cast.

Anonymous said...

I found this film rather charming. Unlike most comedies these days, this film does not go for the cheap laughs with humor coming from the heart instead of the groin. It is hard to say who the target audience is. Birders will love it, but Jack Black fans will be disappointed for sure. I thought it actually gave a nice performance. Sure the film will fade to DVD land quickly.


joe baltake said...

John- I wish I could agree with you. I certainly went into this film with high hopes because of the cast and the filmmaker. I admire both of Frankel's previous films, particularly "Marley & Me" which I found most affecting and hugely underrated. Comedy is relative, I guess, and this one I didn't find funny at all - not even amusing. But it didn't have to be funny for me to like it. I just wanted to be more engaged with it and I wasn't. I can't pinpoint it but something was missing.