|Owen Wilson, Steve Martin, Jack Black, The Big Year, 20th Century Fox, 2011.|
Hollywood studio workman David Frankel delves once again into the usually generic star driven comedy and comes up holding aces. For a director with no discernible style or motif, it could be said that the good star driven comedy is his motif. He locates just enough heart in his characters to make them human, while leaving them adrift in a patented movie world not quite real. Previously, he delivered the good comedies The Devil Wears Prada and Marley and Me.
With The Big Year, he ably guides three endearingly great comedic actors, Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson, from a script by Howard Franklin from Mark Obmascik's book, through pratfalls and shenanigans as three "birders" or bird watchers, as they loathe to be called. Martin's snark and circumstance lend an uncanny edge to his businessman birder. Black's zany physicality wins us over to the side of his schlubby slacker birder. And Wilson's barbed niceties mask his egomaniacal antagonist.
What binds the picture and its typicalities together is the utter obsession of these three fellows and their demented pursuit of a "big year". Throughout the film, they are moored to their homes by the women in their lives, played well by JoBeth Williams, Dianne Wiest and Rosamund Pike. As par for the course, Frankel engages us with character and narrative insightfully enough to make the whole affair click.