I don't know if it was just having seen a great Wes Anderson movie less than a day earlier or what, but I couldn't help but think while watching THE BIG YEAR (2011) that it felt like what would happen if a Wes Anderson style screenplay were somehow handed to a completely average, non-adventurous mainstream director.
I didn't know too much about the movie going in, just that it was about bird watching enthusiasts and it starred Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin, three actors who have done some great movies in the past, but also put out a lot of fluff between the good ones. And I think Kevin Pollak mentioned it once or twice on his talk show, so I knew he was in it, and is usually entertaining.
I think I would have to say that I liked it overall, but the script really seemed to be fighting against the direction throughout. Everything in the script was quirky, from the premise to the plot to the characters to the settings. I couldn't help but to picture how someone like Wes Anderson would interpret all of it, the exact opposite of what the actual director (David Frankel, for the record, who I'm only familiar with from THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA) chose to do. The film makes all the safe, mainstream choices in how to tell the story, how to handle the music cues. That ended up turning it into a good film that was nothing special, and I was left with the feeling that if it was bolder it could have been a great film. Or possibly a spectacular failure, but either way something memorable. I mean, the script has a remote Alaskan cabin where birders go to spot a few rare birds at a particular time of year. In a Wes Anderson movie, that cabin would just look like nothing you'd seen before, but if he succeeded look exactly right. In this movie, it's just a cabin in Alaska.
So I'm not sorry I watched it, and it was pleasant to see Wilson, Black and Martin all doing better work than a lot of their choices, but I'm not sure I'd ever watch it again.