Monday, December 15, 2014

Big (1988 film)

Directed by Penny Marshall and written by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg, Big is the story of a 12-year old boy who wishes he would be big only to grow up into a 30-year old man as he copes with being an adult working for a toy company as well as having a girlfriend. The film is a magical tale where a boy grows up to be a man through a wish from a fortune teller machine as he would endure the idea of growing up too fast. Starring Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, John Heard, Jared Rushton, Mercedes Ruehl, David Moscow, Jon Lovitz, and Robert Loggia. Big is a charming and sensational film from Penny Marshall.

What happens when a young boy asks a fortune teller machine to be big where it comes true as he ends up being a 30-year old man? That is pretty much the premise of the film as it explores a boy coping with the idea of growing up and having to do things that adults are supposed to do. For Josh Baskin (Tom Hanks), he would get a job working for a toy company where his love for toys would have him rise up the corporate ladder and gain a girlfriend where he would eventually lose sight of who he really is. While it is a coming-of-age film of sorts, the screenplay by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg mixes it up with elements of humor into how someone like Josh who may have the body of a 30-year old man but the spirit and mind of a 12-year old would interact with the adult world.

The screenplay showcases a young Josh (David Moscow) asking this fortune teller machine his wish to be big all because he wants to ride a roller coaster with a school crush. Though it does have this idea of be careful what you wish for, Josh would learn that the hard way as he realizes that his wish did come true as the only person he can turn to for help is his best friend Billy (Jared Rushton) who knows a bit more on Josh about the realities of the world. Due to his knowledge in computers, Josh would get a job working for this toy company as he catches the eye of its boss MacMillan (Robert Loggia) who realizes that Josh knows a lot about toys can sell and what toys don’t work in which he would promote Josh much to the ire of executive Paul Davenport (John Heard). Yet, Josh’s ideas and enthusiasm would impress another executive in Susan Lawrence (Elizabeth Perkins) who thinks Josh is a really nice guy and far more mature than the men she had been with.

Penny Marshall’s direction is definitely wondrous in the way she is able to tell a story of a kid who grows up to be an adult. Instead of relying on certain gimmicks and gags about how a kid would act as an adult, Marshall keep things more naturalistic where it’s more about the sense of fear and anxiety that children might face if they do grow up all of a sudden as adults. While many of the compositions are simple, Marshall does manage to keep things engaging in the way she would shoot scenes set in New Jersey and in New York City where the latter is this world that is quite crazy but also very exciting. While there are elements of drama as well as moments that play into Josh’s fear of being by himself and deal with the trappings of adult. There are these moments of humor that are very funny as well as lively scenes that include a very memorable scene of Josh and MacMillan playing a large, foot-operated piano.

The direction also has these moments that are quite intimate in the way Josh and Susan’s relationship develops where it does toe the line between something tender but also creepy considering that Josh is really a kid. Yet, there’s aspects in the direction where Josh presents himself very maturely as its third act play into his desire to return to childhood. Still, there are elements that play into elements of fantasy as it relates to the fortune telling machine that Josh had discovered early in the film as it has this air of mysticism. Even as it reinforces the theme of the idea of wishes as well as what kids want where they would get a glimpse of the idea of adulthood. Overall, Marshall creates a very sensational and heartwarming film about a boy who wishes to be big as he mysteriously grows up to be a man.

Cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld does excellent work with the cinematography from the usage of lights for some of the nighttime interior/exterior scenes including the company party scene as well as some low-key lights for the daytime scenes. Editor Barry Malkin does superb work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward with an inspiring montage scene where Josh moves into an apartment and gets all sorts of stuff. Production designer Santo Loquasto, with set decorators Susan Bode and George DeTitta Jr. and art directors Speed Hopkins and Tom Warren, does fantastic work with the set pieces from the apartment loft that Josh would live in as well as some of the sets created at the FAO Schwartz toy store.

Costume designer Judianna Makovsky does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with the exception of the white tuxedo Josh would wear at the company party. Sound editor Jerry Ross and sound designer Brian Eddolls do nice work with the sound from some of the things Josh hears in his hotel room when he first arrives to New York City as well as some of the sound effects of the toys he would play. The film’s music by Howard Shore is wonderful for its playful piano-based score along with some somber orchestral pieces to play into the drama while the soundtrack features an array of music from classical, standards, and contemporary music from Billy Idol and Huey Lewis & the News.

The casting by Paula Herold and Juliet Taylor is phenomenal as it features some notable small roles from Debra Jo Rupp as Josh’s secretary Miss Patterson, Kimberlee M. Davis as a school crush of Josh early in the film, Josh Clark as Josh’s dad, and Jon Lovitz in a very funny performance as an early co-worker of Josh who says some of the funniest things in the film. David Moscow is excellent as the young Josh who copes with being a kid as well as some of the things he wants to do if he was taller. Mercedes Ruehl is wonderful as Josh’s mother who thinks the adult Josh is her son’s kidnapper as she copes with not having Josh in her home. Jared Rushton is fantastic as Josh’s best friend Billy who helps him deal with being an adult as well as reminding him that he’s really just a kid.

John Heard is brilliant as Paul Davenport as an executive who is not happy with Josh’s rise up the corporate ladder as he is also annoyed by a presentation where Josh says “I don’t get it”. Robert Loggia is great as MacMillan as a toy company boss who tries to figure out how to save his business as he sees Josh as someone that he needs and likes for bringing the kid in him. Elizabeth Perkins is amazing as Susan as this executive who takes a liking to Josh as she would fall for him while seeing that he is very mature as well as quite jovial as he brings the kid in her. Finally, there’s Tom Hanks in one of his most iconic performances as Josh Baskin as this boy who is trapped in a man’s body as he copes with the wish he creates as well as being an adult as Hanks has a lot of energy, charm, and tenderness to his role as it’s so fun to watch.

Big is an absolutely incredible film from Penny Marshall that features an exhilarating and joyful performance from Tom Hanks. Along with a great supporting cast, a fantastic score, and a witty screenplay, it’s a film that manages to capture the heart of a child as well as showing the fears of growing up. It’s also a film that is very accessible for all ages as it is very funny as well as heartwarming. In the end, Big is an outstanding film from Penny Marshall.

Penny Marshall Films: (Jumpin’ Jack Flash) - (Awakenings) - (A League of Their Own) - (Renaissance Man) - (The Preacher’s Wife) - (Riding in Cars with Boys)

© thevoid99 2014


Chris said...

Love Big, a childhood favorite. Agree it's for all ages. I have yet to see the 130 min extended edition, which is 26 minutes longer, I'll do that next time I rewatch. Have you seen both, and which do you prefer?

ruth said...

Wish Penny Marshall would do more films. I remember enjoying this one but it's been ages since I saw it. It's interesting how iconic that piano scene is as people are still lining up at FAQ Schwartz to get on that thing!

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-I haven't seen the extended cut and I probably don't want to since I think the original film is perfect.

@ruth-She is going return to make a new film as I hope it's a winner as her last film Riding in Cars with Boys was terrible. I have been to FAO Schwartz, what a place and they do have that piano. How can anyone not love that scene?