31 October 2011 | wrlj2
They had me at Nutting flycatcher...
I confess that I cannot represent the following as an entirely objective, nor representative assessment of the quality of "The Big Year". How often does one of the early scenes in a film almost identically replicate an incident in the viewer's life? My introduction to the peculiar world of birding was in the late 1990s at Patagonia State Park in Southern Arizona. We had unsuspectingly selected a camping location that was noted for hosting an enormous variety of birds, and were awakened one morning by a small army of odd looking characters hell-bent on confirming the first reported sighting of the Nutting flycatcher in the United States in several decades. Out of curiosity we joined the chase, and the rest is family history, eerily duplicated by the makers of this film. What followed were many years of exercise, pleasure and reward for one of life's most interesting avocations.
So... how could I not enjoy this fine effort at mixing the allure of this strange "sport" with a thoughtful exploration of human motivation and conflicted choices. I can understand why the faithful fans of Black, Martin and Wilson might be disappointed with this production. But I, for one, have grown infinitely weary of too many superficial, sophomoric attempts at humor through these three capable actors. I was encouraged to see the restraint and depth that they could bring to these characters which provided the necessary credibility for this otherwise improbable tale. The film maintains a near perfect balance of humor, drama, and suspense in a well paced, engaging and uplifting plot. The spectacular photography of an abundance of aesthetically appealing locations is an added bonus.
I count it a big plus when I can walk out of the movie with that "feel good" elation that comes from a pleasant and interesting evening's entertainment. My heart said give it an eight or nine, but my never-ending quest for realistic objectivity resulted in the understated seven. Unless you are of the set that requires demolition derbies and frat humor for your entertainment, go see it. You'll have a good time.