‘Birder’s Guide’ is fresh air in stale format

Los Angeles TimesApril 4, 2014 

Sensitively observed, the indie drama “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” concerns a gangly 15-year-old birder prodigy named David (Kodi Smit-McPhee) with a timely distraction on the eve of his widower father’s wedding: the sighting of a supposedly extinct duck unseen since the 19th century.

Spurred by a local ornithology legend (a sublimely eccentric Ben Kingsley) to find it before it migrates, David, his Young Birders Society chums (Alex Wolff, Michael Chen) and a camera-sporting female schoolmate (Katie Chang) head to the woods. Along the way, they tangle with a gang of competitive birders and hash out some unsettled feelings about nerdiness, the opposite sex and, in David’s case, grief over his mother and prickly emotions toward his dad.

Director and co-writer Rob Meyer’s debut feature isn’t the most thought-provoking or original coming-of-age tale in a marketplace full of them, but Meyer’s assured handling of his appealing young performers stands out. The brusque teen humor, underpinning turmoil and sentiment all seem to be pulled and massaged from the same organic whole, and that’s refreshing in a genre so often built on gimmicks and stereotypes.

Though it’s hardly an odd duck, “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” has its own sweet call.

A Birder’s Guide to Everything

H H H 1/2 I

Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alex Wolff, Michael Chen, Katie Chang, Ben Kingsley

Director: Rob Meyer

Rated: PG-13; language, sex and drug references, and brief partial nudity.

Running time: 1:26

The News Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service