Let’s face it. Good comedy is hard to write. Maybe that’s why writers turn to the easy way out and offer up the same ole tired clichés and sexual humor. Good writers understand that audiences want more than insults and demoralizing, hate-filled remarks that are usually directed at body parts. Can we find a movie that goes a different direction ?
One film that deserves a second look is The Big Year. It was released in 2011 and, for the most part, went completely unnoticed. It made only $7 million at the box office. How is that possible with a cast that includes Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson? And here’s the thing. It was actually hilariously funny without being crude and mean-spirited. Yes, we can do better. And The Big Year is a classic example of comedy done right.
I know what you’re thinking. How can bird watching be funny and interesting? Director David Frankel of “The Devil Wears Prada” fame offers an interesting story of three men who are at a crossroads in their lives. One is having a mid-life crisis, one a late-life crisis, and the other is pursuing a life-time dream.
Kenny set the record several years ago but has caught the itch to once again reclaim his fame; however, he has serious competition from amateurs Brad Harris played by Jack Black and Stu Preissler played by Steve Martin. Brad is a thirty-something dreamer wanting to put his mark on the bird-watching community. His father, Raymond Harris, played by the veteran actor Brian Dennehy, thinks his son lacks focus and purpose in life. Their relationship is a source of conflict and frustration for Brad.
All three men are on a journey for the ultimate prize of being the world’s top birder. The challenges are overwhelming. And the mayhem and comedic escapades are just the beginning as these three cross paths. In reality, the film which is billed as a comedy is an allegory for the things that are truly important in life. Some of our characters are going to make choices that will enrich their lives while others will be forced to make sacrifices that could cost them dearly.
This is a movie you may want to add to your film library. There are plenty of touching moments that will tug at your heart. I love the spirit of The Big Year. Yes it’s funny, delightful, and inspiring. In many ways, it’s an honest reflection of our hopes, dreams, and what we aspire to become as a person.