Jack Black stars as Brad Harris who dreams of being the best bird-watcher in the world. His leaves his job in corporate life to pursue his dream. The contest is to be the person who sees the most different species of birds in North America during a single year. Kenny Bostick (played by Owen Wilson) is the best bird-watcher in the game, having won the annual contest many years in a row. Pretty much everyone thinks Jack is crazy to try to pursue his dream. His parents, especially his dad, think he is a loser. His co-workers think he is nuts. But because he is so dedicated and tries so hard they all come around to support him in the end. Even his father who thinks his son is a loser, finally sees the gift that his son has for bird-watching.
Click here to see the rest of this review
For the contest they all travel to remote places, going to Alaska to see rare birds in the wild. Depending on the reported sightings and the locations where the birds are supposed to be, they all travel all over the country to see each of the rare species so that they can mark them off their list. Camaraderie develops between Brad and another contestant, Stu Preissler (played by Steve Martin) as they decide to team up to help each other. Their mutual goal is to defeat Kenny, mostly because of his arrogance.
An interesting part of the contest is that it relies on personal honesty including that a "sighting" of a rare bird may be witnessed by only hearing the bird's chirp and recognizing the distinct song. One way to trick another contestant into falsely claiming a sighting, is for a human contestant to mimic the sound of the bird's chirp. It is unfair to do this, but cheating is one of the hazards of the game.
Even though Brad tries to simultaneously maintain his job and his efforts in the contest, he chases the score of Kenny who is the leader and presents a real challenge to him. There is a strange storm that comes up in the gulf which blows many of the rare birds back towards Texas. All the contestants convene on the area for their last chance to find out who is the one that has the "Big Year".
Best part of story, including ending:
I was surprised that I actually got into the competition for looking at birds because I did not really think it could be so interesting.
Best scene in story:
It is a good scene when Brad and his father finally reconcile in the woods, and Brad decides that his father's health is more important that any bird-watching. They have a great moment of father/son bonding.
Opinion about the main character:
Brad's love of birds wins us over. We see the world through his eyes.