Big (1988) (PG)
Penny Marshall's "Big" is probably one of the most universally accepted comedies of the past thirty years. It blends a credible star (Tom Hanks in one of his first huge roles, some attribute this movie as to what made him a household name), a interesting premise, and some genuine comedy to give us one of the most enjoyable movies you can come across.
Before I start extolling its virtues, please know that I have serious issues with "Big" and the script itself seems to not be so sure of itself as to know its ending. By the story alone, it's hard to wish for a happy ending, let alone get one.
"Big" begins with thirteen year old Josh (David Moscow) stuck in his adolescent and vertically challenged world. He's not that tall, so imagine his problem when trying to woe the cute and tall girl next door. One particularly embarrassing moment is when he is booted from a queue at an amusement park because he isn't tall enough for one of the rides...this is in front of the girl. Ouch. So he mopes around and walks to the corner of the park where he finds a creepy magic wish machine. He wishes to be big and then walks away.
The next morning he awakens to find that the machine has taken his advice a little too literally. He is now easily mid-twenties and sporting facial hair, chest hair, and the works. Adult Josh (Tom Hanks) is presented with the problem of turning back into his younger self before his mother and father and school has a chance to figure out what's gone on.
This means moving to New York for a few weeks to track down the machine again (because the carnival has relocated) and trying to get a job. Josh's computer playing time has paid off and he finds that his childlike look on life helps him climb the executive ladder at a toy making company. Logic is not going to get you anywhere in this movie, particularly if you start itemizing the oddities of how the characters interact and the dynamics that unfold thereof. Remember, this is a movie about a boy who ages decades in his sleep because a magic wish machine granted him his dream...right.
Tom Hanks is very likable as our main character and his acting would gain him an Oscar nomination. He manages to be just serious enough about his situation that sometimes we believe that he is a thirteen year old boy trapped in the body of an adult.
At the toy company, there's a woman named Susan (Elizabeth Perkins) who seems to be the quintessential "strong-woman-in-an-office" type. She is one of the president's right hand women and she never seems to be far from his shadow. Imagine her disapproval when a new computer data entry-level employee starts winning the eye of the big man.
While out being silly and childish at a toy factory, Josh has a chance encounter with MacMillan (Robert Loggia), the company's head. Josh is immediately taken under the man's wing and the two of them play around (the famous scene of "Heart and Soul" on a huge piano takes place here). Laughter and giggles aside, there is serious toy-making potential inside Josh's head and MacMillan is just the man to let it all out.
A cushy exec job and same serious money later and Josh thinks that he's living the high life...he may be; but there's a problem here because his family still misses him.
"Big" is an emotional piece and one that never really oversteps itself. It does feel a bit rushed at parts; but entertainment is the name of the game. Penny Marshall uses just the right amount of slight pushing towards the viewer to guide us into a placated feeling of euphoria...Tom Hanks does the rest.
"Big" is just good entertainment.
Posted by Micah Jones