Movies

Let's Rush To Judgment!: 'The Big Year'

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I have to admit that when I first heard about the upcoming film The Big Year, I started writing my own promotional voiceover. "The Big Year!" I shouted. "Where the Steve Martin is Steve-Martin-er, the Jack Black is Jack-Black-ier, and the Owen Wilson is as Owen-Wilson-y as the law will allow!"

The film, from director David Frankel (who is, as the trailer happily announces, responsible for both Marley & Me and The Devil Wears Prada), sends three guys, played by Wilson, Martin and Black, off on some adventures to rectify their various woes. They are the "midlife crisis," the "late-life crisis," and — for Jack Black, who has been hitting this note since High Fidelity, the "no-life crisis." So they're on a helicopter, and they're on skis, and they're flying through the Everglades or what have you, and — because it's apparently the law — Jack Black falls down a lot. And don't forget the gay panic joke!

Since the trailer doesn't contain any comedy but does seem to contain a few halfhearted nods to Marley-like sentiment, I'm not sure whether to be more alarmed at the possibility that it's supposed to be a straight goofball comedy or by the possibility that it's supposed to be heartwarming. It's a little odd that the trailer, other than having Jack Black reference "bird fallout," doesn't explain that they're all "avid birdwatchers," which is referenced in the film's synopsis: "Three avid bird watchers compete to spot the rarest birds in North America at a prestigious annual event." Would you know that was what was going on from this two-minute trailer? It's always a little alarming when they seem to be hiding the ball about the premise of the movie.

The film is based on Mark Obmascik's well-reviewed book of the same name, but that book certainly seems to be emphatically about birding. This trailer seems to be determined not to mention birds after the first few seconds.

They seem to be going for a kind of City Slickers vibe here, and perhaps they'll achieve it and it will be lovely. (The Devil Wears Prada is an okay movie, and Marley & Me was certainly effectively sentimental.) But for the moment, the birds are in the back seat.

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