Big (1988) Directed by Penny Marshall. With Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, John Heard, Jared Rushton and David Moscow.
Co-written by Ann Spielberg (sister of Steven) and Gary Ross, Penny Marshall’s Big is a fantasy-comedy about Joshua, a 13-year-old boy who gets his wish to be “big” after using a creepy carnival machine at a local funfair. Not only does he get his wish, he gets to be Tom Hanks too but not without sacrificing his teenage personality. In a bid to reverse the effect, Joshua is forced to track-down the machine which takes him to the Big (bad) Apple of New York City.
This is a carefree looking Tom Hanks, years before the heavy dramatic roles and Oscars started piling up. Hanks is great fun, fully basking in the spirit of a teenage-boy and ensuring a few laughs along the way. That said, I wouldn’t call Big a laugh-out-loud comedy, it’s more along the lines of charming fluff that prompts the occasional smile. Take for example the famous toy shop scene – it’s a stony soul who stares blank-faced at Robert Loggia and Hanks doing their ‘Chopsticks‘ routine on the worlds largest keyboard.
The idea of a young person ‘winging-it’ in the adult world is a playground of fun. Beyond that, it also serves as a parable to voice things about the cynicism of grown-ups and what is lost in the transition from boy to man.
While the lighter moments are undoubtedly fun – this being a Penny Marshall film there’s a sprinkling of schmaltz in the script, the music and the photography. The film is sometimes weighed down by these elements, expecting us to feel invested in characters and relationships when we’re not really in that kind of a mood. All things considered though, while Big isn’t a comedy classic it is still a certain amount of fun that can be enjoyed by all of the family.