* (out of four)
Aside from an international staring contest and the World Series of Texting, there aren’t many challenges less suited for a movie than competitive bird watching. Excuse me; apparently bird watching is called “birding,” even though “fishing” doesn’t just mean “people looking at fish.” As three dopes (Jack Black, Steve Martin, Owen Wilson) travel North America, totally disregarding the sights so they can glimpse different species of birds and move on, the battle to maximize their annual bird-spotting total becomes a sorry demonstration of guys who’d rather scope out animals than spend time with, say, an ailing father, a new grandson or a wife who wants to have a baby. The laugh-free, based-on-a-true-story “The Big Year” shamelessly humiliates an innocent woman on her honeymoon in an attempt at comedy and awkwardly includes Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida,” as if that could make this expedition look exciting. Only their own love of birds could possibly explain why Rashida Jones, Joel McHale, Rosamund Pike, Dianne Wiest, Anjelica Huston, Jim Parsons, Brian Dennehy and Anthony Anderson accepted thankless supporting roles in a film that communicates its central passion about as well as six-year-olds talking about why they like Pokemon.
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