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Penny Marshall
Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, John Heard, Jared Rushton, David Moscow, Jon Lovitz
Writing Credits:
Gary Ross, Anne Spielberg

Have you ever had a really big secret?

A 13-year-old boy named Josh wants, more than anything else, to be "big". And when he makes a wish on a carnival wishing booth his dreams come true: he transposes into the body of a 35 year old man - though his mind and spirit remain that of a child. Since he can't really go to school looking like an adult, and his mother doesn't know him in his new guise, he heads to New York with his pal Billy, where they proceed to goof off, play around, and act basically like the kids they are. But when Billy leaves, Josh is subjected to the encroaching needs and responsibilities of adulthood, and he quickly discovers both the pleasures and the problems of being grown-up.

Box Office:
$18 million.
Domestic Gross
$114.968 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 10/5/1999

• Trailer
• Cast Credits


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

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Big (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 18, 2007)

When Big hit the screens in 1988, it looked like itíd offer nothing more than another rip-off of 1976ís Freaky Friday. I assumed that like fellow releases 18 Again and Vice Versa, Big would be a cheap, tacky comedy without any substance.

To my shock, Big offered a wonderful experience that lifted it well above the level of cheesy kiddie fare. Big introduces us to Josh Baskin (David Moscow), a 12-year-old who feels anxious to become an adult. At a carnival, Josh consults a cheap fortune teller machine and wishes that he could be ďbigĒ.

Presto, zammo, and the next day, Josh finds himself a little boy in a grown manís body (Tom Hanks). With the help of his buddy Billy (Jared Rushton), Josh flees his family home and makes his way into New York City. There he plans to find the fortune teller machine, make another wish and go back to his normal life. However, matters complicate when Josh gets a job at a toy company and rises through the ranks. His fresh innocence allows him to succeed where the adults fail, and he also impresses sophisticated co-worker Susan Lawrence (Elizabeth Perkins). Josh deals with the increasing demands of his adult life and his desire to go back to childhood.

When we consider the success of Big, two parties deserve most of the credit. Director Penny Marshall shows sublime restraint as she takes the potentially cheesy subject matter and turns the film into a warm, loving view of how adults should continue to embrace their child-like sides. Josh is a literal boy in a manís body, but he embodies the person more of us should aspire to be, someone without guile or a desire to cut down others to succeed.

Marshall delivers the themes with subtlety. She balances the inherent silliness of the story in a smooth, natural way that allows us to buy into its world. Of course the fantasy tale is absurd, but we never question its reality. Marshall leads us into the setting so well that we wrap out arms around the characters and events. She provides the appropriate childís eye view without condescension or cuteness.

Hanks also earns well-deserved praise for his absolutely stellar turn as adult Josh. Over his long career, Hanks has done a lot of good work, but I donít think heís ever been as good as he was in Big. He easily could have made Josh a goofy cartoon, a caricature packed with easy kid-like attitudes and actions. Instead, Hanks gives us a fully believable man-child. Heís not an adult pretending to be a kid; he really becomes that kid. The utterly genuine manner in which Hanks plays the role also allows us to suspend disbelief. It remains a shame that Hanks lost the Best Actor Oscar to Dustin Hoffmanís one-dimensional turn in Rain Man; Hanks was easily the best of the 1988 class.

Marshall and Hanks didnít work in a vacuum, of course, and everyone else involved in Big contribute to its success. Among the many solid supporting actors, Perkins comes across as particularly effective. She handles Susanís character development in a real, believable manner, and we fully accept her growing affection for Josh. She helps ground the fantasy and give a skeptical audience a way to buy into the tale.

Big remains a rare beast. On the surface, it should be nothing more than a dopey kid-oriented fantasy, but the end result actually proves more endearing and memorable for adults. Warm, winning and emotional, Big stands as a classic.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus D-

Big appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite that drawback, the movie presented a surprisingly good transfer.

The lack of anamorphic enhancement caused some minor issues with sharpness, though. At times I thought the film seemed a little soft, and the moderate edge haloes I witnessed didnít help. Nonetheless, most of the flick appeared pretty concise and well-defined. Mild examples of jagged edges and shimmering materialized, and a few source flaws appeared. I saw sporadic examples of specks and marks, but these stayed reasonably light.

Since so many Eighties movies now look muddy, I felt pleasantly surprised by the colors of Big. A couple of interiors seemed slightly messy, but the vast majority of the flick exhibited tones that were very bright and dynamic. Blacks seemed dark and dense, while shadows were clear and smooth. Overall, I felt the film offered attractive visuals despite a mix of flaws.

In addition, the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Big satisfied. While the soundfield didnít boast a tremendous amount of ambition, it gave us a good environment for this story. A few louder scenes Ė such as at the carnival Ė demonstrated nice use of the surrounds and opened up the spectrum. Music demonstrated nice stereo delineation, while the effects in the front provided a fine sense of place.

Audio quality aged well. Speech was consistently natural and concise, while music seemed lively and warm. Effects came across as accurate and distinctive, and they showed decent dynamic range. At no point did this mix threaten to tax my system, but it was more than satisfactory for its age and scope.

Only two minor extras appear here. We get the movieís trailer and some Cast Credits. That area simply tells us the name of seven actors and their characters; no filmographies or biographies come as well. Whatís the point?

At least the movie delights. Big overcame a series of negative possibilities to turn into a charming fable. Assured direction and excellent acting are just two of the many reasons the flick continues to amuse and delight after nearly 20 years. The DVD offers pretty decent picture and audio but lacks real supplements. Though not a great release, the film is so good I can overlook those issues.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2857 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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