In the extended version of The Big Year, the story is told not via Brad Harris but by the narrator of the intro in the theatrical version (John Cleese). Because of this, certain scenes are edited a bit differently, and the movie has a slightly different feel from what was shown in cinemas last fall. The relationship between Brad and Stu is still pivotal, but it has a less one-sided feel (an improvement). In the extended version we also learn just a bit more about Brad's personal life, which may have been awkward if included in the narrated-by-Brad version of the story.
The narrator talks during many of the scenes that Brad narrates in the theatrical version of the film. In these scenes and in others, John Cleese's narrator often uses bird analogies when speaking about the characters of The Big Year. Some of these are a bit cheesy, but for the most part they work. In a movie about birders, it makes sense to compare important moments in the lives of the main characters to the pivotal moments in the lives of birds.
Parts of the extended version are framed by scenes featuring a Ruby-throated Hummingbird; the female bird's migration in particular transitions between certain parts of the movie in a very effective way. The bird is CGI and looks beautiful.
These small differences between the theatrical and extended versions of The Big Year actually make a big difference in the story; I loved what I saw in the cinema but I may have loved the extended version even more. If you enjoyed The Big Year in cinemas last fall, you'll probably enjoy the extended version, too. And if you didn't get a chance to see it (its run was quite short!), I suggest you give both versions a try. I give The Big Year extended version 5 Goldfinches out of 5.
Thank you to Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Think Jam for providing me with a screener copy of The Big Year for review.