Whoever said birding isn’t cool never saw the movie: The Big Year.
Starring three of the industry’s leading comedic actors—Owen Wilson, Jack Black, and Steve Martin—The Big Year was released by Fox in 2011. It wasn’t a big box office success and that’s a mystery, because it’s a very entertaining story, even if you’re not into birding.
In birding, a “Big Year” is seeing or hearing as many different species of birds as possible in a calendar year. The American Birding Association has standardized and regulated every North American Big Year since 1969.
In the film, three men chase the honor of being named “Birder of the Year”.
Kenny Bostick, played by Owen Wilson, is recognized as the world’s top birder, having set a record of 732 species in a previous Big Year.
Brad Harris (Jack Black) is divorced, has an humdrum job, and is a major disappointment to his father who can’t understand his son’s devotion to birding.
Stu Preissler (Steve Martin) is a highly successful business executive trying to retire to enjoy his new vacation home and new grandson.
All three characters—strangers at the outset—decide to go for a Big Year. And, because birding migration patterns are well understood, they interact with each other throughout the year.
Although there are lots of birds in the movie and there is the relentless tension of competition, the life lessons portrayed in the film are plentiful: the importance of family, prioritizing what’s truly important, and the cost of being the greatest in any field of endeavor.
The movie is based on a book, The Big Year by Mark Obmascik, which follows the adventures of three birders during the actual 1998 Big Year.
If you like birding and movies, this is absolutely worth the time. We watched it the other evening on Amazon for $3.99.
A word of advice: When you watch The Big Year, continue watching through the closing credits and be treated to photos of every bird counted during the film’s Big Year.