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When 12-year-old Josh wishes he could be big,
At some wishing booth called Zoltar,
He wakes up as Tom Hanks, no longer a twig,
But a 30-year-old. How bizarre!
He’s kicked from his home for his strange adult mug
But gets help from Billy, his friend.
Josh moves to the city, in need of a hug,
And wants this whole nightmare to end.
Yet since he is big, he must get a job now
And be an adult, more or less.
Becoming a cubicle worker somehow,
He and Billy find fun in distress.
A tuneful encounter with one of his bosses
Propels him ease by next morn.
He’s paid to test toys, and forgetting his losses,
Enjoys a girlfriend and small corn.
But Josh is a kid, Billy has to remind him;
This life is not where kids belong.
In searching for Zoltar, they finally find him,
And Josh sees that he’s in the wrong.
As home he returns, he has time still to bid
Goodbye to his girlfriend once more.
His second small wish sends him back to a kid;
His life as a grown-up is o’er.

Among a slew of age-changing films in and around 1988, Big was certainly the greatest, largely due to the skill and watchability of Tom Hanks. Many actors have inhabited more child-life roles, typically for comedic effect, but Hanks expertly balances boyish exuberance with youthful anxieties. The scene in which he cries alone in a seedy hotel is the best example of why he deserved his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

To complement Hanks’s star power, there’s also Elizabeth Perkins as his girlfriend Susan, who is oddly attracted to how different Josh is from other men, and John Heard as his immature rival for her affections, who at times makes one wonder “Who’s the kid again?” Mercedes Ruehl evokes the loss of Josh’s grieving mother, and I love how Josh tries to comfort her with his hasty rendition of “The Way We Were.” (“Scattered pic-tures…”)

Though Josh’s rise to success is unrealistically easy (though an enchanted wish-granting carnival booth isn’t exactly realistic anyway), and I have no idea how he was hired with a fake social security number by a major company, Tom Hanks is so winsome and delightful as he leaps on trampolines and gnaws at baby corn that most flaws fall by the wayside. There was some disagreement on how to end the film, namely whether Susan should join Josh in becoming a child. While such a leap of love would have borne a continued hope of romance, I tend to side with how the original film concludes. Susan’s refusal is not only more realistic, but it also avoids further unanswered questions like who her guardian would be and how she as an adult would function as a little girl again. It’s one of those matters that seems right to the heart but not the head.

Replete with classic moments of humor, like the piano duet at FAO Schwarz or Josh’s reaction to caviar, Big remains director Penny Marshall’s best comedic film. 13 Going on 30, a female remake starring Jennifer Garner, captured some of the spirit of Big but could not compare with the original’s charm. Thanks to Tom Hanks’s equal facility with comedy and drama, Big was and is a big success.

Best line: (Josh’s mother, over the phone, thinking Josh is his own kidnapper) “You have my son?”
(Josh) “Yes.”
(His mother) “Look, if you touch one hair on his head, I swear I will spend the rest of my life making sure you suffer.”
(Josh) “Wow, thanks.”
Rank: 55 out of 60

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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