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Five Views: The Birder

May 23, 2014

The Birder Poster

The Birder – A Dot Film Company Release
Release Date: May 23rd, 2014 @ The Carlton Cinema
Rated 14A for substance abuse
Running time: 85 minutes

Ted Bezaire (dir.)

Ted Bezaire (writer)
Michael Stasko (writer)

Dylan Heming (music)
Isabelle Noel (music)
Richard Pell (music)

Tom Cavanagh as Ron Spencer
Mark Rendall as Ben
Jamie Spilchuk Floyd Hawkins
Cassidy Renee as Samantha Spencer
Tommie-Amber Pirie as Laura
Allana Harkin as Rebecca
Scott Cavalheiro as Darcy
Graham Greene as Manny
Fred Willard as Park President

The Birder

©The Dot Film Company. All Rights Reserved.
Ron Spencer (Tom Cavanagh) in The Birder.

Our reviews below:


The Birder Review By John Corrado

*** (out of 4)

We don’t usually get many feel good comedies coming out of Canada, let alone Ontario.  But The Birder is a big exception to this statement, a well made and incredibly likeable comedy from director Ted Bezaire, that recently premiered at the Canadian Film Fest and is now enjoying a limited theatrical run.

A dedicated birder and high school teacher, Ron Spencer (Tom Cavanagh) has always dreamed of being Head of Ornithology at Point Pelee National Park, as a way to impress his devoted daughter Samantha (Cassidy Renee).  But when the job is given to his young rival Floyd Hawkins (Jamie Spilchuk), Ron teams up with his former student and high school janitor Ben (Mark Rendall) to get revenge, a young stoner who has reasons of his own to get back at Floyd.

With a solid cast that includes appearances from Fred Willard and Canadian icon Graham Greene, The Birder is anchored by a perfectly mannered performance from Tom Cavanagh, as Mark Rendall provides a delightful comic foil.  From the animated opening credits to the sweet final scene, the film is as bright as a sunny day, matched by some nice cinematography and a good script courtesy of writers Ted Bezaire and Michael Stasko.

This is a crowdpleaser that deserves to find an audience.  Easily the most polished and widely accessible Canadian comedy to come along in a little while, The Birder is a charming and very entertaining film that is a standout of locally produced cinema.


The Birder Review By Erin V.

*** (out of 4)

It’s one of those films that you don’t really hear much about but once you see it you wonder why it hasn’t gotten more attention.  The Birder is a low-budget Canadian film, directed by Ted Bezaire.  The film follows Ron Spencer (Tom Cavanagh) – a quiet birder who works as a high-school teacher and dreams of getting the coveted Head of Ornithology position at a National Park.

When the position goes to young rival Floyd (Jamie Spilchuk) though, Ron’s life seems to go downhill all at once.  Squatting in the school and feeling that he is losing his connection with his teenage daughter Samantha (newcomer Cassidy Renee), Ron starts to plot revenge on Floyd.  With the help of the school janitor Ben (Mark Rendall) they come up with increasingly complex schemes to try to oust Floyd from his position at the park.

A sort of perfect indie film, The Birder is very well made, incredibly entertaining, and has a real innate sense of its own style.  The film has had a limited festival run in Canada and the UK currently and is now getting a limited release.  Here’s hoping the film goes a lot farther – because it deserves it and it is one that audiences can have fun with as a change from the blockbusters.


The Birder Review By Nicole

*** (out of 4)

The Birder is a very funny and heartfelt movie about competitors in science.  Science teacher and avid birder Ron Spencer (Tom Cavanagh) really wants the position of Head of Ornithology at Point Pelee Park.  (For fictional purposes, the film refers to Point Pelee as a Provincial Park, but it is actually a Canadian National Park.)

But when an enthusiastic and naive young man named Floyd (Jamie Spilchuk), who seems more Spongebob than scientist, gets the position, Ron is jealous.  He is even more annoyed when his daughter Samantha (Cassidy Renee) starts hanging out with Floyd’s Youth Ambassador, instead of having father-daughter birder adventures.  So Ron pairs up with stoner and school janitor Ben (Mark Rendall), to pull pranks on Floyd and get him fired.  The pranks quickly become bullying, which just gets everyone in a mess.  Only when Ron decides to stop bullying Floyd do things get better.

The Birder is one of those charming indie films that feels very believable.  The acting is great, and one really feels for the characters, especially the vulnerable Floyd.  This film encourages appreciation of the natural world, and has a great anti-bullying message.


The Birder Review By Maureen

*** (out of 4)

Ron Spencer (Tom Cavanagh) is a high school science teacher who, as a longtime birder, has always dreamed of becoming the Head of Ornithology at the local National Park.  When the Park President (Fred Willard) announces a new Head will be chosen, Ron figures he’s a shoe-in for the job.  When things don’t turn out the way he expected, Ron is set on righting that wrong, and the result is amusing.

Twenty-something hot shot Floyd Hawkins (Jamie Spilchuk) is the new ornithology Head and everyone, including Ron’s teen daughter Samantha (Cassidy Renee) and aspiring birder Laura (Tommie-Amber Pirie), thinks he is awesome.  The only other person who shares Ron’s negative opinion of Floyd is Ben (Mark Rendall), the school’s young stoner summer school custodian and birder Laura’s ex-boyfriend.

With Ron temporally living at the school after his ex-wife (Allana Harkin) kicked him out, Ron and Ben form a bond over their mutual dislike of Floyd.  The pair then come up with a hair-brained plan to have him removed as the new Head, and Ron step in.

The Birder is quirky and very funny stuff.  Tom Cavanagh and Mark Rendall are really amusing together, and there’s an odd charm to the pair as they attempt to do some not so nice things to poor Floyd.  Check this one out for the charming and funny performances by the two lead actors.  The Birder is a thoroughly enjoyable film.


The Birder Review By Tony

**1/2 (out of 4)

The Birder is a quirky Canadian comedy filmed in and around Windsor ON and the nearby Point Pelee National Park (for some reason called a provincial park here), which along with Pelee Island just north of the international border forms an easy flyway across Lake Erie used by many types of migratory birds and whose Carolinian forest at a latitude actually south of California’s northern border makes it an indispensable pilgrimage site for birders around the world.

It opens with a grainy nature film shown by teacher Ron Spencer (Tom Cavanagh) to a typically indifferent high school science class, featuring the park’s Head of Ornithology and young Ron as his protégé. Ron is socially awkward, stuck in a past of film cameras and avoidance of social media and still living in the same house with his estranged wife (Allana Harkin), her new boyfriend (Scott Cavalheiro) and their teenage daughter Samantha (Cassidy Renee) who shares his enthusiasm for birds.

Having always expected to inherit the park headship, Ron is devastated when the park president (Fred Willard) passes him over for the flashy young Floyd (Jamie Spilchuk) who has been all over the internet and other media with kitschy promotional material and other gimmicks to draw the crowds. Moreover, as vacation begins, Ron is thrown out of the house and crashes at the school, hanging out with its young stoner summer janitor Ben (Mark Rendall) working under contract for his stepfather (Graham Greene). Ron and Ben launch a plot to take Floyd down, realizing almost too late the folly of their actions.

The Birder felt more to me like a TV sitcom than a feature film, with a cast mainly from that medium that was largely unfamiliar to me, though I recall Tom Cavanagh from a similar role in Yogi Bear (2010) and Mark Rendall from Victoria Day (2009). Perhaps as a retired science teacher myself, I was cringing more often than those around me at all the cheap stereotypes built around the real tragedy felt by Ron through most of the film. However, The Birder does have a certain awkward Canadian charm that makes it worth checking out, at least at home.


Consensus: With likeable performances from Tom Cavanagh and Mark Rendall as well as a solid supporting cast, The Birder is a polished and well made Canadian film that plays as a charming and entertaining crowdpleaser. *** (out of 4)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. rina bezaire permalink
    December 9, 2014 9:04 am

    I found the film exceptionally entertaining and touching I went to see it three times.


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