Birding, or "twitching", that is bird watching and spotting different species of birds is not the sort of topic which I would associate with being and interesting or engaging enough material for a movie or something that I'd associate with Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin.
Although the movie is a real moving human interest story, three seperate human interst stories woven well into a single story, the competitive and quirky scene which is bird watching with the aim of seeing as many different species in one "Big Year".
Black's character is living with his parents, his relationship with them is fractious but not fundamentally broken, he hasnt seen any of the things he has embarked upon through to the finish, ie studies or marriage, so when he announces he is going to do a "big year" they arent exactly thrilled, his father and his mother reacting differently though and providing quirkly comic drama which plays to Black's on screen character "type" without being farcical.
Martin's character is a high powered exec who could easily come out on top in the contest but who chooses to play by the rules of most of the others in a sort of "keeping it real" fashion, like our other protagonists there is a mix of avoidance and escapism in play along with the obsessive interest in bird spotting.
Wilson's character is the "king of the hill" defending his title as record holder and not unprepared to play really dirty to do so, of the three he comes across as more obsessed and willing to sacrifice all, he is avoiding and escaping from things in his life too but its some how more sad than the others. While the other two have things besides the "big year", some of which develop during and from the "big year", Wilson's character doesnt seem to have anything but the "big year" itself.
The "big year" provides opportunities for personal growth to all of them, more so in the instances of Black and Martin, its more implied with Wilson's character I guess, and there are some good themes worked out about all consuming hobbies and pass times. I felt the "elephant in the room" for most of the characters was whether this was all a waste of time, the competitiveness keeps them all on track however. Each of these characters have played quirky, outsider and comic characters before and they all do so really well here, its a perfect casting, but it does well not to fall into the trap of becoming another Zoolander [DVD] [2001
] or The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou [DVD
] style "farce feature", there are laughs and amusement but its a film which isnt simply playing to that.
I really liked this film as a human interest story film, its great to get a window on peoples passions, the cast is perfect and pace well done too, the plot develops well and you dont need to be interested in birding to enjoy this (infact I suspect if you're a serious birder then perhaps it wont prove satisfactory because the people are the focus rather than the birds). Recommended.