After being humiliated attempting to impress a teenage girl at a carnival, 13-year-old Josh Baskin (David Moscow) goes to a fortune-telling machine, called Zoltar Speaks, and wishes that he were “big”. The next morning, he discovers to his shock that he is a 31-year-old grown man (Tom Hanks). Fleeing from his mother, who thinks a strange man has kidnapped her son, Josh rents a cheap hotel room in New York City with the help of his best friend, Billy Kopecki (Jared Rushton), and gets a data entry job at MacMillan Toy Company.
By chance Josh meets the company’s owner, Mr. MacMillan (Robert Loggia), checking out the products at FAO Schwarz and impresses him with his childlike enthusiasm. They end up playing a duet together on a foot-operated electronic keyboard, performing “Heart and Soul” and “Chopsticks”. This earns Josh a promotion to a dream job: testing toys all day long and getting paid for it. He soon attracts the attention of the beautiful, ambitious 27-year-old Susan Lawrence (Elizabeth Perkins), a fellow toy executive. A romance begins to develop, much to the annoyance of her current, competitive boyfriend, Paul (John Heard). As Josh becomes more and more entwined in his “adult” life by spending more time with Susan, and his new ideas becomes a valuable asset to MacMillan Toys, this eventually leads to Billy feeling annoyed and neglected by his best friend, who feels that Josh has forgotten who he really is.
Susan asks Josh to come up with proposals for a new line of toys. Although Josh is intimidated by the need to formulate the business aspects of such a proposal, Susan insists that she will handle the business side of it, and that Josh need only rely on his childlike affinity for toys to come up with a good idea, but he soon begins to feel too pressured by this new life. When he expresses doubts to Susan, and attempts to explain to her that he is really a child, she interprets this as fear of commitment on his part, and dismisses his explanation.
Longing to return to the life of a child, he eventually learns from Billy that the Zoltar Speaks machine is at Sea Point Park. In the middle of their proposal to MacMillian and other executives, Josh leaves. After Susan realizes something is wrong, she leaves as well, and encounters Billy, who tells her where Josh went. At the park, Josh finds the machine and makes a wish. He is then confronted by Susan, who, looking the machine and the fortune it gave Josh, realizes Josh was telling the truth all along. Despite her despondence over realizing that their relationship is over, Josh tells her that she was the one thing about his adult life that he wishes would not end, and suggests that she use the machine herself to join him back in childhood. She declines, indicating that her childhood was not something she remembers fondly, and takes Josh home. After sharing an emotional goodbye, Josh reverts to his true, child form, and is reunited with his mother, and later, with Billy.
I have very fond memories of this film. Shhh…don’t tell anyone, but this is one that my friends and I snuck out of a kiddie flick in the next theater to see (easier said than done when there are only 2 theaters and the entire staff knows you on a first name basis).
Big turned out to be worth getting caught and thrown out of the theater, then, and was worth the time to watch today.
There are so many of these films with this premise of the little kid or old guy wishing to grow up or go back to their youth. Vice Versa, 18 Again, 17 Again, and 13 Going on 30 are just examples. It is Big that has, however, managed to become the gold standard for this plot.
Some of my younger readers may find it hard to belive, but Tom Hanks was actually a comedian to start out with, so for him to play a comedic role like this isn’t a stretch, especially back then before he became a serious actor. Hanks becomes a virtual manchild for this role and eats up the screen as he does it.
There are quite a few memorable things about the film, but I would have to say that the thing that sticks out the most to me was the keyboard scene. I was forced to take 2 yrs of that evil instrument in college, and if I would have had this, I can guarantee that it wouldn’t have been so painful. Hanks and Robert Loggia looked like they had a blast on it, but I have to wonder how it is they managed to be so coordinated with chopsticks if their characters hadn’t practiced.
There is a bit of drama that I could do without. First there is the sexual tension between Hanks and Eliabeth Perkins’ character. Yes, I said sexual tension between a virtual 13yr old boy and a (I’m just guessing) 35 yrd old woman. Once that tension is resolved, Hanks becomes more of an adult. This is fine, except we forget that he is still a 13 yr old, and until the other drama comes up, that with his best friend, it seems as if he’s forgotten about his family. I don’t know about you, but if I was a 13 yrd old boy and had to be away from my family for 6 weeks, I’d have been jumping up and down for joy to get back to them.
So, yeah, there isn’t much wrong with this picture other than the unnecessary drama, but I guess you have to build up tensions and whatnot for the denouement, right? Big is a wonderful picture that makes us all think about what we were like as a little kid. At least that’s how it was with me. I also pondered what I would think about if I was 13 yrd and made the wish to be what I am today. would I be proud or disappointed. Yeah, I know that’s a bit deep for a simple film like this, but it happens. I highly recommend this film to everyone. With its mix of comedy and a feel-good tone, how can you not enjoy it?
4 1/2 out of 5 stars