Saturday, April 11, 2009

Big (1988) [PG] ****

Josh Baskin is a twelve-year-old boy living in a New Jersey suburb of New York City. He and his best friend Billy Kopecki are just discovering girls, and Josh has his first crush on the older Cynthia Benson. Josh tries to impress Cynthia at a local carnival, but when he can't get on the roller coaster because he's too small, his frustration leads him to the mysterious Zoltar arcade game, where he makes a wish to be BIG.

The following morning, Josh (Tom Hanks) discovers that his wish has been granted, and he now inhabits the body of a thirty-year-old. After frightening his mother (Mercedes Ruehl), Josh runs away from home. He and Billy then begin a quest to find the Zoltar game so Josh can reverse his wish. Before long Josh has a job working as a computer operator at a toy company in NYC, but when CEO MacMillan (Robert Loggia) meets Josh at the FAO Schwarz toy store, and recognizes Josh's unique perspective on children's toys, he promotes him to VP, where Josh soon comes to the attention of Susan (Elizabeth Perkins) a marketing manager at the company. Susan begins to fall in love with Josh because he is a grown up, and in the process she rediscovers her own youth and innocence, transforming from a cool professional to a doe-eyed ingĂ©nue.

Tom Hanks does a wonderful job portraying a twelve-year-old boy trapped in the body of a thirty-year-old man, who gradually becomes so comfortable in his adult body that he nearly forgets he is a child, until Billy reminds him. Hanks has great romantic chemistry with Elizabeth Perkins, while Robert Loggia is wonderfully sympathetic as a father figure. The film asks each of us to consider what we would wish for if we had a Zoltar game, and how our choice would change our life and the lives of our family and friends. I recommend the 130 minute extended cut, rather than the 105 minute theatrical version; the additional 25 minutes definitely increases the depth and continuity of the film.

To paraphrase screenwriter Robert McKee: At the film's pivotal point, Josh (Tom Hanks) faces a decision; he can choose an adult life with a fulfilling career and the woman he loves, or he can choose to have a fulfilling adolescence. He makes the mature choice to have his adolescence, expressing with a fine irony that he at last became big. For he senses, as we do, that the key to maturity is to have had a complete childhood. But because life has short-changed so many of us in our youth, we live, to one degree or another, with a false sense of maturity. Big is a very wise film.

Labels: comedy, drama, family, fantasy, romance, space-time
Internet Movie Database
Metacritic 70/100
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=79, viewers=70)