#44 Big

(1988, Penny Marshall)

“I wish I were big”

How many people reading this have felt that life was unfair when they were a child? Who out there felt that parents were bossy and controlling, and that everything would be better when you grew up? How many wished that they could skip the rest of childhood and become an adult? Well, as Big proves, sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for.

The movie that essentially made Tom Hanks a star, this is the story of Josh, a 13 year old boy. In attempting to impress a girl at a carnival, he finds he’s too short for some of the “scarier” rides and can’t get on them. Frustrated, he ends up making a wish on a cheesy arcade machine that he could be big. The next morning, he wakes up to find that he’s been aged into adulthood, and is forced out of his home by his mother, who believes he’s an intruder who has kidnapped her son. Now he has to adapt to his new life by taking on a job at a toy shop and dealing with adult problems.

I had trouble reviewing this movie to be honest. As iconic as it is, particularly in the famous giant keyboard scene, I found the experience rather bland to be honest. There were a few decent moments, but overall the film just seemed to lack something, and it failed to drag me in as much as it should have done.

There were good moments, and as a comedy, it did successfully make me laugh a few times. The keyboard scene is genuinely impressive, for a start, if a little cheesy in the way it plays out. Hanks plays the grown-up Josh brilliantly, acting just like a kid and making it really easy to believe he’s a child in a man’s body. Watching him play with toys and fail to pick up on hints adults would be more likely to is hilarious. But this is where my appreciation for the film ends.

It’s not a bad film, by any means. It just feels like a very average family movie with little to sell it on besides the keyboard scene. The concept itself isn’t even that original, particularly as it was one of five movies released around the same time about body switching and being thrust into another life you don’t entirely understand. While there are funny moments, there seem to be more moments that just fall flat, and far too often the movie has a tendency to descend into schmaltzy nonsense, particularly in the ending.

While Hanks is fantastic, some of his co-stars are lacking, although it’s hard to tell if this is because they weren’t working with much to begin with. Elizabeth Perkins as Josh’s adult love interest Susan feels unrealistic and bland. She shifts into her attraction to adult Josh far too quickly, particularly as she’s presented as fairly cold early on, even seemingly dismissing Josh’s ideas outright. John Heard’s stressed-out businessman character is one-dimensional and utilised poorly. Robert Loggia as the slightly eccentric toy shop owner (based off the founder of FAO Schwarz) is good, but doesn’t show up as much as I’d like him to.

Big is ultimately a bit of a mess, drawing off an interesting concept but failing to deliver it as well as possible. There are some minor attempts at exploring the massive differences between childhood and adulthood, and allusions towards adopting some childlike qualities in adult life. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t go far enough, culminating in the film being little more than a slightly generic family movie. Not awful, just average.

Starring Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia & John Heard
Written by Gary Ross & Anne Spielberg
Produced by James L. Brooks & Robert Greenhut
Music score by Howard Shore
Cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld
Edited by Barry Malkin

Favourite Scene: The famous big keyboard scene, largely for being the most memorable scene of the entire movie, and probably the only reason the film’s even remembered at all.
Scene That Bugged Me: Much of the romance between Josh and Susan. I mean, he’s in an adult body, but he’s still a kid. It felt weird!

Watch it if: You wish you were big
Avoid it if: You want a little more than a fancy giant keyboard scene

Originally posted on Blogspot Thursday 19 January 2012

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Posted on April 12, 2012, in 1980s, Comedy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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