The Big Year

As a birder who has just finished his “First Year”, I was very excited to see this movie. I read the book, and I was both delighted and disturbed by the obsession to see as many species of bird as possible in a year’s time – the goal of a “Big Year.” Delighted, because there are so many species, each with its own beauty and its own story (“life history,” we birders say), and the book fascinated me and helped me learn. It certainly stoked my desire to see all of the birds there are. Disturbed, I must admit, because I find I not only want to catch just the tiniest glimpse of a bird to get it onto my life list, but I want to linger over a bird, if possible, to watch it, to delight in it. This is a recipe for losing a Big Year competition. For me, the “big” in big year would be the amount of time afforded to birding, not to the length of the list that results.

The movie did not make fun of birders, did not depict us nerdy goofballs, although it might easily have given in to such temptations. The actors, Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson, are always fun to watch, and this movie was no exception. The filmmakers conveyed the excitement of seeing a sought-after bird quite well. And the movie asked the right questions: What does it mean to succeed in life? What does it take…and what does it mean…to “win”? This is a family movie, I think, and I can easily imagine it would spark an interest in birding in its viewers. I enjoyed it very much.

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