The Big Year (2011): B+

Here is a movie with three of the most distinctive comic personalities in modern pop culture, and it has failed at the box-office. I guess the subject matter, and the non-threatening tone of the comedy, turned audiences off.

Their loss. I’ll be the first to admit that “The Big Year,” based on the novel by Mark Obmascik and directed by David Frankel (“The Devil Wears Prada”), is a minor effort in the careers of all three actors at the center of this film about “birders,” but the performances by Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson are all sincere and entertaining as Brad Harris (Black), Stu Preissler (Martin), and Kenny Bostick (Wilson) travel across North America on a “Big Year,” a year-long hunt to see who can spot the most species of bird in a calendar year. Bostick, whose obsession ruined one marriage, and is about to ruin another, is the current record holder (over 730 types), but Brad and Stu—whom have very different financial situations to keep their hopes alive—are determined to end his reign.

The film isn’t a big surprise artistically speaking; it’s silly, sweet, and light-hearted, although Frankel and his cast aren’t afraid to show how each character’s Big Years have a negative effect on their lives (Kenny in particular has a rough road). What I enjoyed most about the film, however, is the way it showed the unfiltered passion Stu, Brad, and Kenny have for this lifestyle. That’s what resonated the most with me about “The Big Year” because, even though my passions are different, the drive they instill in me is the same.