The Big Year

Rated 5.0

Three birders (Jack Black, Steve Martin, Owen Wilson)—don’t call them “birdwatchers”—compete for a Big Year, trying to break the record for sighting the most species of bird in North America during a single year. Howard Franklin’s screenplay fictionalizes Mark Obmascik’s book, and the result is an extremely pleasant surprise. Franklin, director David Frankel and the three stars manage to get under the skins of these men and their unusual obsession, and in the process the movie gets under ours. There are no bellylaughs, but no cheap gags or fun-poking either—this isn’t that kind of comedy (think what Adam Sandler or Zach Galifianakis might have done with it, and shudder). The stars shine; Martin hasn’t been this good in years, and as for Black—Gulliver’s Travels is now entirely forgiven.