Big was a movie that got a lot of play in my house when I was a kid. The giant piano scene is particularly etched in my memories. However, it’s a very different movie when viewed as an adult. There’s things that you don’t pick up as a child because you don’t completely understand what’s going on, that become crystal clear once you reach adulthood, mainly the fact that a grown woman inadvertently has sex with a twelve year old boy . Also, I’m pretty sure my attention span as a child had a hour long limit, so it’s very possible I didn’t see anything past the sixty minute mark until I was a teenager.
Josh Baskin, fed up with the limitations of being twelve, wishes on a carnival fortune teller game that he could be big, only to wake up the next morning a thirty year old man (Tom Hanks). Unable to explain what has happened to his family, he goes to the big city to make it on his own. He quickly gets a job at a toy company and becomes a star employee. He sets up a life for himself, renting an apartment and stocking up on everything a kid can dream of, and even catches the of one of his co-workers (Elizabeth Perkins). However, he misses his family and the uncomplicated life of a child and must find the fortune teller game again to wish for his old life back.
Tom Hanks is great as a child trapped in a man’s body. To truly capture the child’s perspective, director Penny Marshall had the actor who played Josh at age twelve run through scenes so Hanks could see how a child would approach the situation. While Hanks had all ready starred in a string of films, I think this is the first film of his that hinted at the powerhouse he would later become.
As an adult I find the romance between Hanks and Perkins’ character disturbing. Who wants to guess how long Susan was in therapy after realizing she had sex with a little boy? The originally ending had Susan wishing she could be a child again, which may have made their hook-up a little easier to stomach. I mean, I know you never have confirmation that they do it, but it’s heavily implied. Maybe I’ve become overly politically correct in my old age but I just don’t think it’s necessary to have them seal the deal and to me it kind of taints the sweetness of the rest of the film.
John Heard, who’s mostly known as Kevin McCallister’s dad in the Home Alone movies, plays Susan’s ex who sees Josh as a rival at the toy company. Peter has lost all trace of his inner child and is obsessed with money and winning. However, he shows he’s more immature than a child by resorting to cheating in order to beat Josh at squash. He does a great job playing someone filled with hate.
Overall, Big is a charming movie showcasing one of the most beloved actors in American film history. It’s a great reminder of how we’re in such a hurry to grow up and, once we do, we realize how good we had it.