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David Frankel
Jack Black, Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, John Cleese , Zahf Paroo, Rosamund Pike, Joel McHale, Kevin Pollak
Writing Credits:
Mark Obmascik (inspired by the book), Howard Franklin

Three avid bird watchers compete to spot the rarest birds in North America at a prestigious annual event.

Box Office:
$41 million.
Opening Weekend
$3.251 million on 2150 screens.
Domestic Gross
$7.204 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Video Dolby Digital 5.1 (Theatrical Version Only)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 100 min. (Theatrical Version) / 103 min. (Extended Cut)
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 1/31/2012

• Both Theatrical and Extended Cuts of the Film
• Deleted Scenes
• Gag Reel
• “The Big Migration” Featurette
• Trailer
• Sneak Peeks
• DVD Copy
• Digital Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Big Year [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 2, 2012)

With a cast that starred Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson, 2011’s The Big Year sounded like a “can’t miss” comedic proposition. And yet it did miss. It received middling reviews at best and totally tanked at the box office, where its US take barely passed the $7 million mark.

These factors led me to skip Year theatrically, but I figured I’d give it a try on Blu-ray. After all, with such a good cast, it must have something going for it, right?

The film teaches us about the concept of the “Big Year”, a competition to find out who can spot and identify the most North American bird species over one calendar year. In 2003, Kenny Bostick (Wilson) set a record with 732; he fears he’ll lose it, so he preps for another search to top his own achievement.

Bostick won’t be alone, as others want to shoot for his record as well. We meet two of these folks: Baltimore computer programmer Brad Harris (Black) and Manhattan business CEO Stu Preissler (Martin). We watch their shenanigans as they all battle each other across the span of one “big year”.

While that’s an unusual concept for a movie, it’s certainly one with ample room for comedic exploration. Not only does it feature three distinctly different main characters, but also it places them in a wide variety of locales and circumstances. With so much variety at its disposal – and three eminently talented lead actors – how could it fail?

I’m not sure, but fail it does – or at least disappoint. “Fail” is a little strong, but the movie never remotely lives up to the expectations its cast sets. Year comes with a pretty awesome roster of actors; in addition to the three leads, we find talents such as Dianne Weist, Rosamund Pike, Brian Dennehy, Tim Blake Nelson, Rashida Jones, Kevin Pollak, John Cleese, JoBeth Williams and others.

All of whom get almost entirely wasted by this ordinary movie. How can such a terrific cast produce a comedy with so precious little entertainment on display? I’m not sure, but that’s what occurs. I might’ve chuckled once or twice, but that’s about it; the level of amusement found here seems shockingly low given all the talent involved.

The whole project also seems strangely nondescript. With the unusual set-up and so many different characters, you’d expect all sorts of fun and antics, but they never materialize. The entire enterprise seems oddly restrained and without spark; no one seems invested in the proceedings and the roles fall flat on the screen.

Sure, Year devotes a fair amount of time to backstories and side narratives, but these go nowhere. Really, the movie wants to be nothing more than a giddy, wacky romp, but instead, it attempts to develop a third dimension. It provides hackneyed stabs at character growth that prove to be utterly worthless; we’re no more invested in the personalities or stories than we would be if the film just shot for pure comedy. The movie turns increasingly dramatic as it goes, and to negative effect, as these moments feel forced and drag down any potential amusement.

To a moderate degree, we do care who wins the competition, but even that’s only an abstract curiosity. I never developed an active “rooting interest”; I was vaguely intrigued to find out who would succeed, but I didn’t care which one of the characters did so.

All of this leaves The Big Year as a massive missed opportunity. It combines an interesting concept with an excellent cast but fails to go anywhere other than on a fast train to Snoozeville.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus C-

The Big Year appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The movie came with the fine transfer I expected.

Virtually no softness ever interfered with the presentation. Even wide shots remained tight, as the movie displayed solid clarity and delineation. Jagged edges and moiré effects failed to appear, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also stayed away from this clean image.

In terms of palette, Year went with natural tones affected by a bit of a teal impression. That’s typical for many modern Hollywood flicks, but the bluish tinge didn’t distract or become overwhelming. Overall, the hues were fine and full. Blacks showed good depth, while low-light shots boasted nice clarity. This was a consistently appealing presentation.

Don’t expect a lot more than a standard comedy mix from the disc’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, though the mix of settings allowed for some variety. Storms and different environmental bits demonstrated nice breadth, and a few minor action bits added pizzazz. Otherwise, the audio tended to be restrained, so we didn’t get a lot of involvement and activity. This was fine for a movie of this sort, however, so the often low-key soundfield wasn’t a detriment.

Audio quality was perfectly acceptable. Speech showed nice clarity and naturalism, and music was reasonably distinctive and dynamic. Effects appeared accurate, and they showed good punch when necessary. All of this seemed solid enough for a “B“.

Not a lot of extras pop up here. We do get both the film’s theatrical version (1:40:02) and an Extended Cut (1:43:09). What do we get in those additional three minutes? I have no idea. I only watched the extended edition and never saw the shorter cut, so I couldn’t indicate what differences arose. Nonetheless, I wanted to mention that the two versions appear here.

12 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 17 minutes, 31 seconds. The majority of these extend existing scenes. That means a whole lot more of the characters as they get to know each other on a boat, and a mix of other longer sequences. A few unique tidbits pop up, but they’re pretty minor – and the extended components don’t have a lot going for them. These scenes are just as monotonous as the ones that made the final cut. We do get a more hopeful finale for one of the characters, though.

Next comes a Gag Reel. It goes for five minutes, 58 seconds and shows silliness and goofs. These also throw in some alternate lines, so it’s more interesting than most blooper compilations.

Finally, a featurette called The Big Migration runs 18 minutes, 28 seconds and offers notes from director David Frankel, production designer Brent Thomas, assistant location manager Dan Kuzmenko, costume designer Monique Prudhomme, DP Lawrence Sher, gaffer John Dekker, 2nd AD Mark Bunting, Yukon unit production manager Warren Carr, special effects coordinator Alex Burdett, sound mixer David Husby, 2nd assistant camera Carrie Wilson, transportation captain Cliff Brown, Yukon resident/security Michael Mason, Yukon resident/driver Sandra Hull, generator operator Ken Decker, Yukon production coordinator Shalia Edl, unit publicist Lorraine Jamison, caterer Barb Foster, and actors Steve Martin, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Rashida Jones, Joel McHale, Kevin Pollak, Jim Parsons, and Steven R. Weber.

“Migration” looks at the movie’s many locations and aspects of the production that took place at these spots. Despite some fluff – most of which emphasizes the big aspect of the film’s scope – we do learn a reasonable amount here, as a variety of good notes arrive along the way.

The disc opens with ads for In Time and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. These also show up under Sneak Peeks, and we get the trailer for Best Year as well.

A second disc adds some value to the set. It delivers a DVD copy of the film as well as a digital copy of Big Year.

With a stellar cast and a fun concept, The Big Year looked like a winner. Unfortunately, it fumbled the ball and provided a slow, lackluster attempt at comedy. The Blu-ray offers excellent visuals and good audio but comes with mediocre supplements. Even fans of the movie’s stars probably won’t get much from this forgettable flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
1 3:
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