Michael Keaton’s stressed-out actor in Birdman isn’t the only performer haunted by a feathery fictional alter ego these days. Sesame Street veteran Caroll Spinney, 81, has been performing as perennial six-year-old (and recent Twitter convert) Big Bird since 1969, after all. Since Spinney’s other big character on the deathless PBS educational show is Oscar The Grouch, one can readily imagine the sardonic sense of humor lurking within this genial, octogenarian Muppeteer. That side of Spinney’s personality is truly brought out in Big Birdman (Or: The Unexpected Virtue of Orange Pants), an officially-sanctioned You Tube parody of the 2014 Alejandro González Iñárritu film.
Big Birdman captures the look and feel of its cinematic predecessor with the expected level of fidelity, right down to the floating objects, all-percussion soundtrack, and continuous, kinetic camerawork. Both the camera and Big Bird himself follow the restless Spinney as he leaves his dressing room, traverses some dimly-lit corridors, and walks out onto the street in the open air, all while reminiscing about his career in public television. Just like Michael Keaton, Spinney is pondering some basic existential questions: “How did we get here? How do we get to Sesame Street?” Of course, the parody is much more family-friendly than the film, with the script making some inspired substitutions along these lines: “This place is crawling with monsters. Smells like bird seed.”