The Big Year (PG)

Starring: Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Steve Martin, Rosamund Pike

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The Independent Culture

Bird watching enjoyed a brief artistic cachet last year when it featured in Jonathan Franzen's Freedom.

It's unlikely to enhance its reputation with this soft-brained comedy of male bonding between "birders". A divorced schlub (Jack Black) and a middle-aged tycoon (Steve Martin) join forces to try and outdo the US champ (Owen Wilson) who's going for another "big year" of spotting a record number of birds – 732 his best score. Howard Franklin's script aims for featherlight inoffensiveness and scores a bull's-eye, at the cost of anything close to an honest laugh. The three leads must have put in the hours to-ing and fro-ing about the country, but the film they're supporting is pretty much for the birds.