Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin compete in the race to spot as many rare birds as possible in one ‘Big Year’.

The Big Year

Cert: PG

2.5/5 stars

The Big Year follows three avid bird-watchers, at equally crucial points in their very different lives, as they compete to spot the most rare birds in an annual event across North America.

Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson) is back to defend his title as the world's greatest 'Birder', enraging his 3rd (or is it 4th?) wife, who is left at home desperately trying anything and everything to get pregnant, which proves difficult in the absence of Kenny.

Steve Martin reigns in his usual outlandish comic stylings as Stu Preissler, a weary company exec who has been putting off retirement and his dream to complete a Big Year for too long.

Stu befriends kind, carefree Brad Harris (Jack Black) who is easily the most dedicated bird-lover, but is hampered by budget restraints, a full-time job and a strained home-life.

As the three men scour the far corners of North America, from Alaska to New Mexico, in a bid to break Bosticks incredible world record, however, they each have to face up to 'real-life' issues back home and are all forced at some point to reassess their Big Year.

Jack Black is becoming more and more likeable as his film career progresses, tackling his role with an, as yet unseen, maturity and tenderness.

Both Owen Wilson and Steve Martin are also noticeably more resigned than the slap-stick characters we're used to seeing them play, lending the film a calmer, more thoughtful air than is perhaps expected.

Great performances all round, incredible scenery, and an innovative vehicle for a middle-aged male mid-life crisis film, but a middle-aged male mid-life crisis film nonetheless.

Touching in places, but Sideways and About Schmidt did it first and they did it better.

AW