Big (1988)

Posted by on Jan 2, 2012 in One-Man Show | 0 comments


Disclaimer: Some adult-oriented sexual references, not to mention a love story involving a 30 year-old and a 13 year-old.

To a kid, the world is an uncaring wasteland ruled by fascist dictators, who make them do chores for money, force them to choke down vegetables, tell them when to go to sleep, and make all of the rules. In this desolate land ruled by parents, kids can’t operate heavy machinery and are often told they’re too small for certain activities. After frustrations swell, almost every child (at some point or another) has wished the same as this film’s protagonist – to be “big.”

Josh Baskin (David Moscow) lives in Big2this world and casts his wish at a local carnival to a strange Zoltar machine. Much to his surprise, Josh awakes the following morning to find himself inside a 30-year-old body (Tom Hanks). For obvious reasons, this poses a problem. When he reveals himself to his mother (Mercedes Ruehl), she deduces the 30-year-old man kidnapped her son. With nowhere to turn, Josh and his best friend Billy (Jared Rushton) find him a residence in a dodgy New York City motel. To pass the time, Josh lands a job as a data processor for a large toy corporation (quite the appeal). Following a famous scene in which Josh and his boss (Robert Loggia) perform Chopsticks on a huge foot piano, Josh is promoted to vice president of product development (a position that entails playing with toys and critiquing them). With his new job, Josh has enough money to afford the ultimate apartment equipped with a trampoline, pinball machines, a basketball hoop, and bunk beds. Shortly after Josh gets noticed for brilliant toy ideas, Susan (Elizabeth Perkins) sets her sights on the youngster and sexual immaturity jokes ensue.

“I want to spend the night with you,” Susan says coyly.

“You mean sleep over?” Josh innocently responds, thinking of his bunk bed sleeping situation. “Well, OK – but I get to be on top.”

This film is chock full of classic scenes and hilarious one-liners that both kids and parents will enjoy. Viewers won’t easily forget Josh’s first encounter with caviar and baby corn, tonguing a cherry from a sundae, or even his catchy “Shimmy shimmy cocoa pop” song (later sampled by Nelly, for Christ’s sake).

Like Freaky Friday, many films have tried to mimic the magic of Big to no avail (18 Again, Vice Versa, 13 Going on 30, and Like Father Like Son come to mind). I’ve heard even the musical theater version that hit Broadway in the late 90s fell a little flat. Hanks’ performance is the best in his comedic career, which ended shortly after this film at the close of the majestic 80s. Hanks’ Oscar-nominated work is partly due to the actor who portrayed young Josh (Moscow), as Hanks asked him to play the adult scenes first and Hanks would mimic him. Penny Marshall expertly directed this flick and reportedly dropped a scene at the end of the film in which a new girl named Susan arrives at Josh’s school (thank god she did).

In an odd and somewhat creepy sort of way, this movie acts as a romantic comedy as well. But once we take away the fun and laughs, the main message of the film is clear – embrace your childhood as long as you can. Unfortunately for child viewers, this will be a tough message to swallow, especially when it’s followed by another mouthful of asparagus.

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