The Big Year. The Movie. The Review.
With sneak preview tickets provided by RMBO, members of the field glass fraternity and the telescope sorority
settled back in reclining seats at The Denver Film Center last night, munched popcorn and tried not to fret about
how we birders would be skewered in the latest gem to grace the silver screen, The Big Year. Based on the book
of the same name by Denver's very own Mark Obmascik, this film improbably starred such big name actors as
Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. To cut to the quick, I mean, in a nutshell, The Big Year was a Big Movie.
I loved it. I laughed, I winced, I almost cried and was charmed by the goofy portrayal of three wild and crazy birders
as they twitched, chased and scored. Go see it! Everyone who is aware of your avian obsession will be asking you
about "that bird flick." I hear that the official opening is this Friday. Don't laugh, but this movie is labelled PG "for language
and some sensuality." Sensuality? Maybe I blinked? Maybe the censors are referring to that sensual scene with the Bald
See The Big Year with your spouse, but brace yourself for a few knowing nudges in the ribs, as your birding behavior
is displayed in Technicolor and recognized. "That's you, dear. They got that right!" On the other hand, one review I read summarizes this
movie as noble and lofty. "Their quests are allegory to the challenges faced in their lives." "See, honey, when I go birding
it's an allegory." (Try that one, and let me know if it files).
The Big Year borrows from these familiar genres:
The Great Race.
The Nature Channel.
The Buddy Movie.
Stalag 17 - you'll see it here. You can almost smell it.
Wall Street, the movie. From Board Room to Binoculars.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels -How low can you go to shake off your rivals?
You'll notice homages to Alfred Hitchcock, Boy Meets Girl, and Airplane.
And yes, Steve Martin reprises the dance of "A Wild and Crazy Guy."
Jack Black reprises sweating, and Owen Wilson wears duds like no birder I know.
If you've ever boarded a pelagic trip out of Monterrey Bay, you'll chortle at the portrayal
of that ruler of the rolling ocean, Debi Shearwater! Was that Angelica Houston with pigtails
and rubber boots?
Can you identify the brands of field glasses held by the actors?
You will find only a few errors:
Did I see a birder in the field with a camera, but NO binoculars?
Did I see THAT hawk in THAT weather?
Does Attu come with bird name labels on every hillside and meadow?
Could you see THAT owl in THAT national forest? (I looked it up - you could).
But the biggest error is the repeated conceit that "Whoever sets the Big Year record is
The World's Best Birder!"
Movie reviews usually conclude with an overall rating, such as "X number of stars" or
"Y number of bags of popcorn." My personal rating of The Big Year is Four out of Five
buckets of stinky fish-head chum."
I don't want to spoil the ending, but can say this much - every year ends on New Year's Eve.
The ticket? Maybe eight bucks.
The Milk Duds? Maybe two bucks.
Memories of The Big Year? Priceless!
Joe Roller, Denver