Release year: 1988
Director: Penny Marshall
Screenwriter: Gary Ross, Anne Spielberg
Starring: Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, John Heard, Jared Rushton, David Moscow, Jon Lovitz, Mercedes Ruehl
Ratings: 2 Oscar nominations: Best Actor (Tom Hanks), Best Original Screenplay. 1 Golden Globe: Best Actor Comedy/Musical (Tom Hanks). 1 Golden Globe nomination: Best Comedy/Musical.
Fed up with the short-comings of being too young, 12-year old Josh (Hanks) wishes to become big on a mysterious Zoltar machine at a carnival. The next day he wakes up as an adult. Now he and best friend Billy (Rushton) must find the machine so he can take back his wish, but until then, Josh must survive adulthood with all it contains of career, responsibilities and even love.
If you ask about age-changing comedies, chances are this is the first one to pop into people’s mind, and rightfully so. Marshall’s (A League of Their Own, 1992) 1988 hit is endearingly charming and despite the fantastical theme approaches the story in a realistic way, that only adds to the likability. Much of the success lies with the leading star. Hanks (Forrest Gump, 1994) has several times proven himself a bankable actor, but also a very capable one, here, at the beginning of his career, he mostly played light-hearted comedies and he played them well. Today, Hanks must still be top on the list of any director looking for a ‘nice guy’, because no one portrays nice like Hanks. This means, that in Big the mixture of kindness and talent in Mr. Hanks comes to good use, as Hanks perfectly captures the spirit of a child without ever moving over to silly. He is a true star but the young Rushton (Overboard, 1987) definitely has charm enough to match him, He shares an incredible chemistry with both Hanks and Moscow (Just Married, 2003), who plays young Josh, and the delightful relationship between the two friends are a big part of the movie’s charm. A nice touch is, that instead of merely focusing on Josh’s situation, the movie lets us see the trouble the mother, played passionately by a great Ruehl (The Fisher King, 1991), and her distress helps us remember that Josh is just a kid. The biggest effort of the movie, is how it reminds adults, how they have forgotten to play, as Josh quickly influence the grown-ups around him, with the refreshing straightforward approach to life typical for kids. It makes Big an incredible uplifting movie, that may just remind you to put a bit of play into your adult life again. Not bad for a movie.
The ‘Walking Piano’, first spotted by the filmmakers at F.A.O. Schwarz toy store, was 6.5 feet long and played only one octave. So the piano was too small to play the notes director Penny Marshall needed (the script was written that Tom Hanks and Robert Loggiawould play ‘Heart and Soul’ on the piano). So she contacted Remo Saraceni, the creator of the ‘Walking Piano’, and said she needed one built large enough to accommodate the dancing feet of two grown men. So the obliging Saraceni made a sixteen-foot long, full three-octave piano wide enough for the scene.
Picture copyrights: SF Film