The movie’s narrator, John Cleese, calls the three main characters the champion birder or the champion (Ken played by Owen Wilson), the retired executive (Stu played by Steve Martin) and the programmer (played by Jack Black). The three characters meet and cross paths over and over again during the film. At first they all want to be the champion for that year’s Big Year, although they all deny that they are doing a Big Year. Over the course of the movie, Stu and Brad become friends, and at one point they decided that they should collaborate so that at least one of them has a chance to beat Ken.
Ken seems to be universally disliked by everyone to some extent, most likely because he plays tricks and is deceptive to out bird everyone else. He had won the competition a few years before the film takes place and had promised his second wife that he would not do another Big Year. They are attempting to have a baby when the film starts with his wife doing fertility treatments. He decides to go out birding just to make sure no one can beat his record, or so he tells his wife. She asks him not to do this, but he does anyway.
Stu was just starting retirement for the second time from the now major corporation that he had founded as the film starts. Unlike Ken’s wife, Stu’s wife gives her blessing. This could possibly be because they are older, she has her own fulfilling life in addition to their life together, or it could also be because Stu has delayed doing a Big Year for quite a long time to take care of family and business. It is not really explained in the movie—it is just clear that she gives her blessing to the adventure. She does not even seem to mind when he misses some holidays.
Brad is a computer programmer who hates his job and is living with his parents again because he is divorced. The divorce seems to have happened partly due to Brad’s obsession with birds. He decides to do a Big Year, and his mother agrees to be his travel agent. She in fact persuades Brad to go back out on the road when he is in a funk. Not only that, she provides substantial financial help for his dream. His father finally begins to understand Brad after Brad tells him he is on track to possibly being the champion birder for that year. He really understands him after they go into the woods together to find a particular bird.
The question of when is enough enough is to me answered by the reactions of Stu and Brad after they find out their rankings. Stu is a bit sad about coming in fourth, but tells his wife he no longer needs to do a Big Year. He starts taking his infant grandson out birding with him. Brad is ranked second, but more important to him in the end is that he has found love again.
Ken, however, clearly has lost and not gained at the end of the movie. He, to me, did not see that his previous championship was enough and did not think about what the potential consequences of doing too much were. He only thought about not losing his championship title. He did not care that the other birders disliked him. He did not care that his wife did not want him to do another Big Year. He only cared at the beginning of the movie about being remembered as the winner and the birder with most birds ever. The last shot of him in the movie does seem to show him realizing how alone he is.
I recommend this movie.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kathryn Samuelson is an intuitive who channels messages from your angels and guides through spiritual or automatic writing. She is also a life coach certified by the University of New Hampshire through its Professional Development Department. Kathryn does workshops based on the set of meditation cards and book called Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be that she created with her friend, Linda Lewis. For more information: http://www.kathrynsamuelson.com/, klsamuelsonATyahoo.com, or 781-799-7332
Other Blog Posts by Kathryn Samuelson: Just Because We Can, Should We?, Choosing a Slower Path, My Journey with the Angels, Odds and Ends, Dissolving Limits, Brave Spending, Mindful Spending, Would You Have the Courage to Act?, Growth in the Winter, Book Review: Find Your Spirit Animals, As We Grow Through the Season, Simple Ways to Give, Turning Left Rather Than Right, Giving Thanks, Nurturing the Ego, Letting Things Go, Real Energy Book Review, Living with Doubt and Uncertainty, Bardo - The Things In Between, Musings On Mindfulness, You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps, The Choices We Make, Beyond: Buddhist and Christian Prayers CD Review, Riding Out Irene: A Practice in Maintaining Balance,