Earlier today Movieline‘s Julie Miller riffed on the trailer for The Big Year (20th Century Fox, 10.14), a Ben Stiller-produced comedy that looks like a non-cancer-afflicted Bucket List meets “The Great Outdoors meets Planes, Trains & Automobiles meets Jack Black eating pretzels in his underwear,” as Miller noted. The costars are Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson.
And yet Howard Franklin‘s script is based on Mark Obmascik‘s “The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession” — a book of amusing reportage about three guys who spent all of 1998 watching several hundred species of birds. Okay? Guys spending thousands to watch birds.
The trailer underplays this angle, of course, making the film seem like a collection of the same old sardonic humor moments and comedic pratfalls and misfortunes that always occur when Hollywood stars encounter Mother Nature to any degree.
Declaration of Comedic Principle: it isn’t funny to watch anyone fall off a Joshua Tree-like rock hill. Falling and bruising your bones and muscles and ligaments hurts. Even if you don’t break anything the ache and stiffness stays with you for days.
The point of the tagline “from the director of The Devil Wears Prada and Marley and Me” (i.e., Daniel Frankel) is to make guys like me feel lethargic or depressed or want to drink hemlock, or possibly all three as a package deal.
The poster, however, spells out the bird-watching thing fairly explicity, I think, so Fox can’t be accused of ducking the beak-and-feather aspect entirely.
Keep in mind that Franklin wrote and directed those two culty-quirky Bill Murray comedies that hever quite caught on, Quick Change and Bigger Than Life, and that he adapted a third Murray dud, The Man Who KNew Too Little. Franklin also directed that Joe Pesci “Weegee” movie called The Public Eye. He also wrote Ridley Scott’s Someone to Watch Over Me and The Name of the Rose and Antitrust, which starred Tim Robbins as a Bill Gates-y software billionaire.