Film review: Big (1988), directed by Penny Marshall
Josh Baskin (David Moscow) has a problem. There’s this girl he fancies, but he’s too short to even go on a roller coaster ride with her. Tucked away at the back of the travelling fairground is a coin operated machine, Zoltar Speaks, who promises to grant your wish if you manage to aim a coin at his mouth. Josh naturally wishes he was big. “Your wish is granted,” says Zoltar, but nothing seems to happen.
Deflated, Josh goes to bed that night, only to wake up next morning in the body of a 30-year-old (Tom Hanks). Trying to explain that he’s really Josh doesn’t go down well with his mum (Mercedes Ruehl), who thinks he’s an intruder. His best friend Billy (Jared Rushton) finally believes him, and helps him get on a bus into Manhattan, where he can lay low while they try to figure out where the travelling fairground has got to – which might take as long as six weeks, because bureaucracy.
In order to get some money Josh finds work as a computer operator at a toy manufacturing company. When he runs into the company founder, MacMillan (Robert Loggia), at a toy store and displays a natural playfulness and gift for understanding what children want from toys, he gets a big promotion – to test drive new toys. And he’s very good at it. Annoyingly good, if you ask some. But is adulthood really all its cracked up to be?
It’s strange how both Mr T and I both thought Susan (Elizabeth Perkins) would use a Zoltar wish to make herself young again, but either we were both thinking of a different film that also features age swapping, or it’s the Mandela Effect in action. Not sure which, but if you know of a film like that, please let me know in the comments down below!
Big is a charming film, and you shouldn’t overanalyse it. Small (in stature) kid wants to be big enough to go on a roller coaster, wakes up as an adult and takes full advantage of eating all the pizza and sweets he can and then needs to get a job so he can continue to pay for food and accommodation. And of course he’s going to be good at understanding toys, he’s an actual child! Of course no one knows this, so they just think he’s a bit peculiar. Except for Paul (John Heard), who gets suspicious and jealous – but not suspicious in a “is he actually a child somehow trapped in an adult’s body?” because that’s clearly impossible.
Josh has a trial run at being an adult, which is fun at first because you can stay up all night and watch TV and have sweets for breakfast, but eventually the novelty of it wears off. If there’s any criticism to level at it, aside from the Susan love interest being kind of creepy when you think about it, it’s that Josh doesn’t wake up in pain the next morning, because at some point your body starts laughing at you as soon as you do even minor things to it.
It’s a kids film, it’s cute and I guess works for both kids Josh’s age as well as adults. It’s a bit of escapist fun, and it all turns out well in the end. Although I keep wondering what happened to Josh’s swanky apartment …
4 out of 5 floor pianos.