Just like birdwatching or more specifically birding, The Big Year is nice in the very best sense of the word. This comedy could have been irreverent, over-the-top and intent on destroying any vestige of respect for the nature lover's pastime. Or, it could have been reluctantly charming, embodying much of the hobby's gentle pleasures in a sweet-natured film.
It went for the latter, although the natural order of things would have us believe that casting Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black would've resulted in a farce. This is really the tragedy of The Big Year, which straddles the tightrope between comedy and drama. It's central characters are renowned for their larger-than-life roles and off-the-wall performances, which entrenchs false expectations of something in the vein of Caddyshack instead of something more attuned to the chipper meanderings of Larry Crowne.
Instead we're presented with a sweet story, which although competitive and comedic in nature, delivers a welcome message about life's priorities instead of laugh-a-minute hi-jinx. Birding is given due respect as our intrepid birders engage in a game of "oneupmanship" as they rack up sightings of over 700 bird species in a single year. There are moments when the comedy could have taken a detour, but it's pacing, performances and sneaky adventures are as pleasant as tea and scones with some light-hearted banter.
The bottom line: Nice