Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review: The Big Year

If you were the coach of a football team and you had Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers on your roster, would you suddenly decide to switch their positions and play them all on defense?  Do you think this would be a recipe for success? I think for about 99.9% of the population (that 0.01% for those who have no idea who any of the aforementioned trio are), the answers to both questions would be a resounding NO.  One person you can count in the extreme minority who might say yes is director David Frankel (Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me).

The reason I suggest this is because Frankel takes three renowned comedic actors in Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson  and casts them in the light-hearted drama (yes, oxymoron intended) The Big Year as three men determined to be the best bird watcher in the world.  And did I mention it is a straight-laced approach to bird watching (is there any other kind?) – hold the punch line?  My best guest is that Frankel envisioned combining the Marley & Me version of Wilson wit the Shopgirl version of Martin and The Holiday version of Black to create this cinematic world populated by dramedy-friendly male leads.

The plot of the movie focuses on these three men as they stand at crossroads in their respective lives and uses The Big Year – an annual bird watching competition – as a vehicle to highlight the choices the trio of protagonists have made and the ones they face as they move forward in their lives.  The premise alone is not terribly gripping, but the inclusion of the three veteran comedians creates expectations.  Unfortunately those expectations are for hilarity to ensue, which the film by design cannot deliver. 

The bottom line is that this is a cinematic version of the defunct TNT show  - Men of a Certain Age, which focused on three men battling mid-life crises.  Like that show, the plot of this film has a very limited market.  And I know – as hot and riveting as the desire to be the greatest bird watcher may sound (note: dripping sarcasm), it really is not a compelling vehicle to hitch your storytelling wagon to.  Having just watched it less than twenty-four hours ago, I am hard-pressed to name one or two scenes that made an impression with me.

This is an avoid-at-all-costs movie, but not because it is horrible, vapid, poorly written and directed.  To the contrary, it is a fair exercise in the rules of cinematic production.  The problem though is that the other half of the filmmaking equation is to entertain and that is where this movie is sorely lacking.

Standout Performance: Rosamund Pike is solid as the dramatic heavy in the film.


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