I think at some point when we are kids we want to be an adult. We want to know what it’s like. Why do the adults have all the fun and we have to go to bed early? That’s one question that always flooded my mind when I was a child, but now that I’m an adult I realize that being a kid was the greatest time – no responsibilities, no bills to pay and no job to go to every day. The only thing that I worried about was whether or not it was going to rain outside. Playing outside, riding your bike and occasionally breaking the rules is something we all did as children and in some ways the child is still inside of us waiting to be released.
Penny Marshall’s Big is a story among many others that explores the idea of body swapping. These stories typically involve becoming older or younger, waking up to realize that something is odd and wondering what is going to happen things don’t return to normal. A young boy, Josh (David Moscow) finds a fortune teller machine named “Zoltar Speaks” and makes a wish to be big. A ticket pops out revealing that his wish is granted.
We make wishes all the time, whether in front of a machine, praying or flipping a coin into a wishing well, but more often than not, those wishes hardly come true. The next morning, Josh awakens to realize that he’s big! He’s a thirty-year-old man (Tom Hanks). He doesn’t know what to do and even more frightening, he can’t fit into any of his clothes. How is he going to explain this to his mother (Mercedes Ruehl)? It’s hilarious when his mother sees him and thinks he’s kidnapped her son – funny for the audience and scary for Josh. He doesn’t have a home to go to but has a friend that can help. That friend is Billy (Jared Rushton).
What makes Big work so well is the amazing performance of Tom Hanks (who garnered his first Oscar nomination). He reminds us of what it’s like to be thirteen. He eats candy, play games and when he finds work he spends his money on things only a kid would buy – a bunkbed, soda machine and a trampoline! Who wouldn’t want to have those items in their house, even now? I do! Being an adult is scary and dealing with adult things is something that a child shouldn’t have to go through, but Josh makes the best use of the situation as he can. A perfect example is interacting with women and dealing with attraction for the first time.
Josh meets Susan (Elizabeth Perkins) a co-worker of his that takes an interest in him for how different he is. Josh ends up having probably one of the best jobs ever as someone who gets to play with toys and give an opinion of them. I’ll bet you anything that most people would trade the job they have now to play with toys for an entire day instead! In the movie, there is a moment when Susan is obviously flirting with Josh, who clearly doesn’t notice it. They leave a party together and ride away in a limo, something that Josh hasn’t experienced yet but remember, he’s still thirteen and not thirty as Susan thinks he is.
I like to think of myself as a ten-year-old at heart. I still feel the need to press all the buttons down the toy aisle; I ask questions that a child would only think to ask; and I don’t get involved in romantic relationships. I still want to be a child and have fun, but being an adult does have its perks as well. In Big, we see Josh develop during the time that he is “big.” He has a fun job, gets his own apartment, dates a nice lady, and has money of his own. It’s nice for a while until Josh sees other kids playing and wants that to happen for him again. He wants to go home where life was simple and nothing was complicated.
Big is a childhood favorite of mine. The film examines what it’s like to be a child and what it’s like to be an adult but wishing you were still young. Tom Hanks delivers an exceptional performance and I wonder where he got the energy. Penny Marshall actually waited for him to be available to work with him on this movie. Tom Hanks is often cited as the modern day version of James Stewart and with all his performances throughout his career, he hardly disappoints. Big is one of my favorite films starring this great actor.
The script that Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg wrote is incredible and even though the film is thirty years old (how about that!), the story still resonates today. Big is a treasure for the fantasy department and thankfully has no villains or moments where people’s lives are in danger. Well, unless you consider Josh claiming to have kidnapped himself to his mother over the phone as dangerous. Plus, Josh is listed as a missing person on the back of a milk carton, too! Regardless, Big is a wonderful film for the family. Kids will enjoy and the adults may be thinking back to a simpler time when they were kids. Compared to the other “body-swapping” movies such as Like Father Like Son, 13 Going on 30 and Freaky Friday, Big rises above the rest mainly due to the heartfelt and truly childlike performance of Hanks.
Seeing it on the big screen was fantastic, especially bringing some friends along, one of whom had never seen the film. They laughed the entire movie and really enjoyed it. In fact, AFI named Big as one of the Ten Best Fantasy Films of all time! So, have you ever had a really big secret? Well, I don’t have a secret but I will tell you that I’m still a child and I refuse to let that version of myself go. Remember, being an adult is fun but never pass up the opportunity to have some fun, buy some toys for yourself and always be a kid at heart!