A Comedic Birding Film Starring Jack Black

Spoiler-Free Movie Review:

The Big Year (2011)

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars


When I heard this was a comedy about birding, I was reluctant to watch it. I figured it was mostly a movie for birders or at least those vaguely interested in birds. Since I lack interest in most animals, and would rather do almost anything than watch them for hours, I thought this would be perhaps educational, but not relatable or funny to me in the least.

I was wrong.

It was funny…it was heartwarming…it was adventurous. The theme was creative. The trailer really doesn’t tell you much, so don’t rely on that. Overall, it was much better than expected.


The movie is based on a nonfiction book called The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik.

It stars Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson.

It can be watched on Disney+ at this time.


Three birders, Brad Harris (Jack Black), Stu Preissler (Steve Martin), and Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson), attempt a Big Year. For those who do not know, a big year is when a whole calendar year is spent seeing and identifying as many bird species as possible. It is based on an honor system, because birders do not have to show proof.


  • Phenomenal actors
  • Complicated characters
  • The theme and premise are creative
  • Not only about birds–it’s about people pursuing their passion wherever it may lead them
  • It’s just plain funny
  • Credits actually fun to watch


  • It just merits an 8 out of 10. There are better movies, but if you want a good laugh, this one is one to pick up. This movie takes itself very seriously at times, making it less of a comedy (at least in the sense of the modern definition that people use), but then deals with things with a lot of humor at other times, preventing it from being completely serious.



The acting of the three main actors–Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson–is spot-on. No complaints in that department at all. The rivalry and grudging respect between the characters is audible in the way they speak to and about each other. I do not know as much about Steve Martin and Owen Wilson, but Jack Black is a familiar name around my home.


Brad Harris (Jack Black) comes off as more of an amateur than the other two, kind of like a superfan without as much experience. He is trusting, likeable, and easy to root for. He lives with his parents after a failed marriage. His father is not very supportive, thinking that the Big Year is a waste of time and money. The movie develops a potential romantic interest for him–to see how it turns out, you’ll have to actually watch it.

Stu Preissler (Steve Martin) is an older man who is considering retirement again. He is encouraged by his wife to do the big year, and has many years of birding experience. Not as trusting as Brad, he is still willing to remember what really matters even when pursuing his passion. Stu built a company and is the CEO, and his employees continually distract him from his big year to try to get him to negotiate business deals.

Kenny Bostick is a man obsessed with birding to an unhealthy degree. Even though this is supposed to be the year he tries to conceive a child with his wife, he goes on a Big Year because he is afraid someone will break his record. During the movie, he is fiercely competitive and not afraid to turn to subtle acts of sabotage, especially by turning people against each other.


The theme of the movie is creative. Making a birding movie watchable for a wide audience is not easy, but it makes the topic more interesting. If I were to pinpoint a theme or deeper message it would be that you should follow your dreams, but in doing so you should not leave your loved ones behind.


The movie is hilarious at times. Watching Jack Black jam to bird song, only to have a coworker listen in and say “rock on” in confusion, was great.

Plus the movie started with a warning–“This is a true story. Only the facts have been changed.” That was some humorous self-awareness there.


The credits show the various pictures of birds that were purportedly taken by a character during the movie. The song playing during the credits is “This Could All Be Yours” by Guster.


I would recommend this movie for anyone who enjoys comedies. Give it a chance–you won’t regret it!


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