Big

Big. Gracie Films/20th Century Fox 1988.

Before watching the movie:

Once again, an 80s classic with an iconic scene.  Another fantasy comedy. Recommended by the Zeitgeist and provided by a browse through the local library.

I expect to like this film, so I’ll probably be slightly disappointed. I’m not sure if I’ve seen any of Tom Hanks’s early comedy roles before, but even knowing about them, I wouldn’t have necessarily picked him for a story about a kid in a grown man’s body. It reminds me a little of Forrest Gump, but without the depth.

During/after the movie:

When thirteen-year-old Josh Baskin is the only one of his friends too short for an amusement park ride, humiliating him in front of a girl he was trying to impress, he wishes to be “big” on a “wish machine.” The next morning he wakes up a 31-year old Tom Hanks. He can’t stay at home, since his mother thinks the strange man who appeared has kidnapped her son. In order to have a place to stay, he gets a data entry job at a toy company. If that wasn’t lucky enough, a couple chance encounters with the company owner rocket him to a Vice Presidency, with the job description “play with toys, report what you think of them, get paid.”  He also attracts the attention of a female coworker who is fed up with the childishness of all the other men she’s ever been with. But while Josh is playing with toys and discovering the joys of adulthood, distance grows between him and his best friend, and no matter how much he wants to, he can’t go home.

The deep predicament Josh finds himself in is shown somewhat inconsistently at first, but later becomes more real. The scene at the beginning where grown-up Josh tries to explain what happened to his mother is probably supposed to be the kind of awkward I hate, but it feels like they’re playing it more for laughs than drama. It also feels as if the writers changed their minds in the middle of the story at that point. When he discovers the change, Josh bolts out of the house before his mother can see him, then decides to go back, despite apparently having already guessed what her reaction would be. The gravity of it didn’t become apparent until the scene on the telephone.

Tom Hanks is at times goofy, at times innocent, and usually honest. In short, he’s what adult actors think kids are like. I’m not sure if that really adds up to childhood, but it’s better than being condescending about it. Of course, it’s a key plot point that he becomes too grown-up, but even then his kid best friend seemed smarter. Also that gets around how maturely he handles being torn between his life as a kid and staying adult with Susan.

Altogether, I think this film could only have been a better picture of a child in a strange situation if John Hughes had a hand in it. The concept is engaging, the emotions are solid, but the kids seem a little off.

See this movie: and laugh at a kid mistaken for his own kidnapper

Don’t see this movie: if you wonder why nobody acts like a 30-year-old man taking a kid into a seedy apartment alone is weird.

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