By Dirk Sonniksen | March 12, 2014
Writer(s): Luke Matheny, Rob Meyer
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Kodi Smit-McPhee, James Le Gros, Alex Wolff, Katie Chang, Michael Chen
Still reeling from his mother’s death, David (Kodi Smit-McPhee) spends his time birding with a group of friends. David happens upon a peculiar find, a supposedly extinct species of duck. Snapping a quick, blurry photo, David does a beeline to the office of Lawrence Konrad (Ben Kingsley), David’s idol of sorts who is skeptical yet intrigued by the find. Lawrence encourages David and friends to venture off to find the elusive duck, a find that could propel them into the exclusive club of birding high rollers.
A Birder’s Guide to Everything is joyful film of boys being boys, watching birds, dreaming of women, and watching more birds. It’s the Stand by Me of birding movies with our group of bird enthusiasts venturing out to find, not only that pesky duck, but themselves. In fact, birding becomes somewhat of a side story to the tales each of our characters have to tell. Our boys and one girl (Katie Chang) learn that their problems are not so different and perhaps talking to each other about said problems beats any standard therapy—and proves to be considerably cheaper.
Director Rob Meyer assembles an admirable cast that prove their comedic skills in a film that has a lot of funny moments. In a sense, A Birder’s Guide to Everything is more comedy than drama, although their are a number of heartfelt moments that help to balance out the film. Besides our young group of actors, Ben Kingsley comes through with a comedic wit that is decidedly Kingsley. It’s a kind of pompous arrogance combined with an easygoing swagger that makes his character rather brilliant. He pontificates, but then digresses into the language of the young, a vibe that connects with the birding youth that surround him.
A Birder’s Guide to Everything is a relaxing view and one that will appeal to many. It strikes a good balance that makes the film accessible to a wide audience—and no, you don’t have to be into birding, but after watching the film, who knows, you might find yourself buying a pair of binoculars and venturing out to find the next Lazarus species. Take a group of friends along, and you just might figure out the meaning to life’s mysteries. After all, you’re never too old to be young again.
Rating: 8 of 10