A thoughtful comedy about bird nerds

Yesterday we rented and watched The Big Year (2011), a movie about birders. Specifically it stars Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson as three eccentrics competing to break the record for most species sighted in a year. Black plays a socially inept computer programmer who gets no respect from anybody except his mom (Dianne Wiest), Martin plays a CEO trying to retire in order to pursue his passion (with the profound support of his family but equivalent resistance from his vice presidents), and Wilson plays the reigning champion who will stop at practically nothing (and perhaps sacrifice all else) to defend his title.

Despite comedy star appeal, the movie flopped at the box office, unfortunately. Maybe it is too sentimental and not funny enough. This movie is about three things:

  • the diverse relationships of three oddballs with one another and their families
  • bird life as a metaphor for eccentricity and beauty of the human spirit
  • the rewards and fellowship of being a geek

Bird geeks are a peculiar species certain never to become extinct (as long as birds survive). I swear I have met many of the characters in my own excursions around Point Pelee, Wellington County and elsewhere. We must forgive the charming arrogance of some individuals who are very good at what they know and do, and are willing to share it. I have occasionally encountered the less palatable sin of goal setters driven past common decency and respect. But on the whole birders are a humble, generous crowd.

I can’t believe this story would fail to warm hearts in alternate realms of geekhood. Anyone who feels a little bit weird should love it.

But yeah, it also makes me want to do my own Big Year.


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