Movie Review | Big
Movie summary: After wishing to be made big, a teenage boy wakes the next morning to find himself mysteriously in the body of an adult. (IMDb)
Big turned thirty last year and I'm pretty sure that I've seen it close to ten times by now - or at least often enough that I could've probably written this from memory. However, I did watch it again and there was one scene (that I'll get to later) that I had completely forgotten about and yet I don't know how because it's yet another reminder of how damn good an actor Tom Hanks is.
The premise is pretty simple: teenage boy wants to impress a girl, but is too short to go on a roller-coaster with her and wishes he was big - a wish that comes true. Much like a lot of fiction that deals with wishes being granted, there is a slight twist to what was granted and he is not only in a bigger body, but also an older one with all the expectations that come with being an adult.
I have to say that the story isn't the best, thanks to stretching just past the bounds of credibility. Yes, I know Big is a movie about a wish being granted, but that should really have been the single fantastical element of the movie rather than Josh's meteoric ascent in the business world to add to the level of unreality. It's all still fun, but it does make everything feel a little insincere about the story it's trying to tell.
There's also a certain subplot that isn't just fantasy-like, but also a little creepy and would certainly result in outrage if this movie was released today. That is, of course, the grown woman (Susan, played by Elizabeth Perkins) sleeping with the thirteen year old boy. It doesn't matter that his body is that of an adult, he's still a kid and this particular plot point would lead to some very interesting questions on a press tour in this day and age.
If anything, this story actually makes me wish there was a sequel to Big. How does Susan react to the fact the she fell for and had sex with a child? How would Josh react to being that child having sex with an adult woman? Big (very correctly!) doesn't deal with this as the realisation for Susan only comes right at the end of the movie, but it is something that I can't help but think about.
Then there's the scene I mentioned right at the beginning that I had forgotten, which is Josh's first night alone in New York. Full credit has to go to Tom Hanks here, because he completely sells you on Josh being a little kid in an adult's body, curled up and crying in bed as he hears gunfire and shouting outside the hole of a room he's forced to live in. This scene serves as excellent evidence for why he was rightfully nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars for this role.
One point I will give the story immense credit is the choice to never real how or why the wish was granted - it just happens so the story can happen. This works because the mechanics of wish-giving isn't the point of the story - this is Josh's story and his reaction to the wish being granted is what the audience should care about.
Too many modern movies get caught up in trying to give a reason for every little thing, trying to build the 'lore' of the setting rather than concentrating on the story and the characters. The only time a story should focus on the how and why of a particular thing working is if that is the point of the story and the characters are after that same information.
Big is a fun film, but strays a little too far from the single fantasy element of a wish being granted to be taken as anything more than that. Hanks is incredible as Josh, but the rest of the cast are limited regardless of how good they are (which is to say, very good) by the constraints of their roles existing to serve Josh's story. Everything moves just that little bit too fast for me to think of it as anything more substantial.