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Penny Marshall
Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, John Heard, Jared Rushton, David Moscow, Jon Lovitz
Writing Credits:
Gary Ross, Anne Spielberg

Have you ever had a really big secret?

A 13-year-old boy named Josh wants, more than anything else, to be "big". And when he makes a wish on a carnival wishing booth his dreams come true: he transposes into the body of a 35 year old man - though his mind and spirit remain that of a child. Since he can't really go to school looking like an adult, and his mother doesn't know him in his new guise, he heads to New York with his pal Billy, where they proceed to goof off, play around, and act basically like the kids they are. But when Billy leaves, Josh is subjected to the encroaching needs and responsibilities of adulthood, and he quickly discovers both the pleasures and the problems of being grown-up.

Box Office:
$18 million.
Domestic Gross
$114.968 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Stereo
French Stereo
Spanish Monaural
Portuguese Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 104 min. (Theatrical Cut)
130 min. (Extended Edition)
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 5/12/2009

• Both Theatrical and Extended Cuts of the Film
• “Big Brainstorming – An Audio Documentary by Writers Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg”
• “Big Beginnings” Featurette
• “Chemistry of a Classic” Featurette
• “The Work of Play” Featurette
• “Hollywood Backstory: Big” Featurette
• “Carnival Party Newswrap” Featurette
• Eight Extended Scenes with Optional Intros
• Trailers and TV Spots
• Fox Flix Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Big [Blu-Ray] (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 23, 2009)

When Big hit the screens in 1988, it looked like it’d offer nothing more than another rip-off of 1976’s Freaky Friday. I assumed that like fellow releases 18 Again and Vice Versa, Big would be a cheap, tacky comedy without any substance.

To my shock, Big offered a wonderful experience that lifted it well above the level of cheesy kiddie fare. Big introduces us to Josh Baskin (David Moscow), a 12-year-old who feels anxious to become an adult. At a carnival, Josh consults a cheap fortune teller machine and wishes that he could be “big”.

Presto, zammo, and the next day, Josh finds himself a little boy in a grown man’s body (Tom Hanks). With the help of his buddy Billy (Jared Rushton), Josh flees his family home and makes his way into New York City. There he plans to find the fortune teller machine, make another wish and go back to his normal life. However, matters complicate when Josh gets a job at a toy company and rises through the ranks. His fresh innocence allows him to succeed where the adults fail, and he also impresses sophisticated co-worker Susan Lawrence (Elizabeth Perkins). Josh deals with the increasing demands of his adult life and his desire to go back to childhood.

When we consider the success of Big, two parties deserve most of the credit. Director Penny Marshall shows sublime restraint as she takes the potentially cheesy subject matter and turns the film into a warm, loving view of how adults should continue to embrace their child-like sides. Josh is a literal boy in a man’s body, but he embodies the person more of us should aspire to be, someone without guile or a desire to cut down others to succeed.

Marshall delivers the themes with subtlety. She balances the inherent silliness of the story in a smooth, natural way that allows us to buy into its world. Of course the fantasy tale is absurd, but we never question its reality. Marshall leads us into the setting so well that we wrap out arms around the characters and events. She provides the appropriate child’s eye view without condescension or cuteness.

Hanks also earns well-deserved praise for his absolutely stellar turn as adult Josh. Over his long career, Hanks has done a lot of good work, but I don’t think he’s ever been as good as he was in Big. He easily could have made Josh a goofy cartoon, a caricature packed with easy kid-like attitudes and actions. Instead, Hanks gives us a fully believable man-child. He’s not an adult pretending to be a kid; he really becomes that kid. The utterly genuine manner in which Hanks plays the role also allows us to suspend disbelief. It remains a shame that Hanks lost the Best Actor Oscar to Dustin Hoffman’s one-dimensional turn in Rain Man; Hanks was easily the best of the 1988 class.

Marshall and Hanks didn’t work in a vacuum, of course, and everyone else involved in Big contribute to its success. Among the many solid supporting actors, Perkins comes across as particularly effective. She handles Susan’s character development in a real, believable manner, and we fully accept her growing affection for Josh. She helps ground the fantasy and give a skeptical audience a way to buy into the tale.

Big remains a rare beast. On the surface, it should be nothing more than a dopey kid-oriented fantasy, but the end result actually proves more endearing and memorable for adults. Warm, winning and emotional, Big stands as a classic.

In addition to the 104-minute theatrical cut, this DVD includes a new 130-minute extended edition of Big. I did my best to note all of the additions, which I cite now. If you don’t want to know the exact content of the new footage, skip ahead to the technical portion of the review – spoilers a-plenty are on the horizon!

3:55-5:10 – Josh’s parents move his sister Rachel into his room; dinner at Billy’s house;

19:17-21:07 - Josh’s parents talk to the police, Billy sneaks out, he and Josh head to NYC;

29:00-29:35 – Josh before his job interview

32:14-34:17 – Susan deals with her secretary and checks out a new toy;

36:20-38:07 - Susan and Paul consult on a failed line, Paul shows he’s a weasel, Scott babbles on the phone in the background before Josh calls his mom;

42:50-43:00 – Josh and Billy count along with bank teller then gleefully leave the bank;

43:45-46:11 – Josh calls home to ask what to use for a stomachache, he sees a dad with a Josh in front of FAO Schwartz, and plays with a toy plane;

52:00-52:22 – Brief shot at the office;

52:42-53:00 – Paul rants about white-collar arrests

58:45-1:01:15 - Josh tells Billy about his letter, they go get a tux, and we see more of the party before Josh arrives;

1:03:00-1:04:40 – We get a few more seconds of Josh and MacMillan as well as other folks at the party plus more of Josh and some hors d’oeuvres;

1:12:44-1:13:17 - Josh and Susan play a game and she prepares to seduce him;

1:19:30-1:22:05 – Josh has a late-night meeting with MacMillan and Susan comes to Josh’s;

1:26:25-1:26:53 - More of Josh and Susan at the carnival;

1:32:13-1:32:30 – Susan gives her secretary a wedding present;

1:33:58-1:34:20 – Billy calls for Josh who isn’t home;

1:34:58-1:35:23 – Josh works on his new proposal and Paul plays with a yo-yo;

1:35:55-1:36:38 – Josh sees kids buy comics and gets his idea;

1:39:00-1:41:35 - Billy calls the office, Josh works on his idea some more, and Billy calls Josh’s place again;

1:44:07-1:44:56 – More of Billy and Josh’s mom as they chat;

1:50:58-1:53:58 – Susan looks through Josh’s wallet, Billy looks for Zoltar, and Susan suspects Josh really is a kid.

Note that some of the above-mentioned sequences include snippets also found in the theatrical cut. However, these are always brief, so almost all the footage is new to this version.

That’s a lot of material – does it improve the movie? No, and I think it probably harms it in the long run. Unlike flawed theatrical cuts such as The Abyss, the 1988 Big didn’t suffer from any notable problems. It was already a classic, so why mess with success?

Indeed, while 104 minutes feels right for this story, 130 minutes can make it drag, especially since a lot of the material seems redundant. How many shots of Billy being ignored by Josh do we need? What purpose do the scenes at Billy’s house serve? Do we need more evidence that Paul is a jerk or that MacMillan misses the old, less market-obsessed side of the toy business?

No and no – and no to almost everything else added to the extended cut. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun to see the added sequences, as they are a treat for long-time fans to glimpse. They just don’t manage to make Big a better movie – or even as good as the original cut.

With one potential exception: the scenes in which Susan starts to believe that Josh really is a kid. I like these quite a lot, as they help fill out an iffy part of the story. I think I understand why they didn’t make the theatrical cut; they slow down the tale somewhat when it needs to move quickly toward its climax. However, they allow Susan’s side of things to better fit the flick. She goes from skeptic to believer awfully rapidly in the theatrical version, so the shots of her growing suspicions mean that this side of things flows more logically.

Otherwise, I could do without the additions for the extended cut of Big. As a fan, I’m glad I can see them, but I doubt I’ll ever watch them as part of the movie again. They just don’t work.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Big appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a perfectly decent transfer but not any better than that.

Some of the concerns related to sharpness. Though much of the flick offered very good definition and delineation, more than a few slightly soft shots occurred. These usually took place during interiors, particularly at MacMillan; those tended to be somewhat fuzzy and drab, issues that also affected colors. Those tones were erratic. At times, the hues looked terrific, but they also could be flat and bland.

I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement seemed absent, at least during scenes from the theatrical cut; added sequences showed minor haloes, but I didn’t count those against my grade since it seemed most fair to compare apples to apples. In terms of source flaws, I saw a few specks as well as a couple of prominent streaks. Grain was within acceptable levels.

Blacks seemed dark and dense, while shadows were clear and smooth. Overall, the movie looked good, but it lacked consistency. The image varied from excellent to blah, so I thought it deserved a “B-“.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Big, it worked well given the movie’s age and ambitions. While the soundfield didn’t boast a tremendous amount of ambition, it gave us a good environment for this story. A few louder scenes – such as at the carnival – demonstrated nice use of the surrounds and opened up the spectrum. Music demonstrated nice stereo delineation, while the effects in the front provided a fine sense of place.

Audio quality aged well. Speech was consistently natural and concise, while music seemed lively and warm. Effects came across as accurate and distinctive, and they showed decent dynamic range. At no point did this mix threaten to tax my system, but it was more than satisfactory for its age and scope.

How did the picture and sound quality of this Blu-ray compare to those of the 2007 Special Edition DVD? Both were pretty similar. Audio was a wash, as the two seemed a lot alike. The Blu-ray looked a bit tighter than the DVD did, but both still suffered from all the same problems. While the Blu-ray worked better than the DVD, it wasn’t a tremendous upgrade.

The Blu-ray replicates all of the extras from the 2007 Special Edition. Of course, the main attraction comes from the extended cut of the film. I’ve already discussed it in the body of my review, but I wanted to mention it here as well.

We also get Big Brainstorming – An Audio Documentary by Writers Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg. Hosted by DVD producer Pete Ventrella, this piece splits between two elements. We get new comments from the writers as they chat with Ventrella about their work. Some of these notes reflect specifics about Big, but many deal with general issues connected to screenwriting. The other portions of the track come from old audio tapes recorded by the writers. These allow us to hear them as they come up with various story and character ideas during the flick’s development.

Both sides of the package mesh well and give us a very nice look at Big. The new remarks add good perspective and details, while the archival material provides an invaluable glimpse of the writers’ processes. Put together, these create a nice form of alternate audio commentary that’s quite enjoyable and informative.

Under the banner of “Featurettes”, we find five pieces. Big Beginnings runs 16 minutes, 29 seconds as it gives us more from Ross and Spielberg; producer James L. Brooks joins the conversation about seven minutes into the piece. They provide additional information about the script and its creation. To my surprise, they repeat little from the commentary. Ross and Spielberg dig into topics like the title, rewrites, scene specifics and how they collaborated. When Brooks enters, we also get info about how the tale entered into production. We get another good examination of how the writers worked through the screenplay and other movie-related topics.

For the 23-minute and 45-second Chemistry of a Classic, we hear from Ross, Spielberg, Brooks, director Penny Marshall, producer Robert Greenhut, casting directors Paula Herold and Juliet Taylor, and actors Robert Loggia, Jared Rushton, Elizabeth Perkins, David Moscow. “Classic” looks at how Marshall got onto the project, casting and performances, Marshall’s style on the set, some scene specifics, and reflections on the movie’s success.

While “Classic” doesn’t blaze any new trails as a featurette, it gives us a nice recap of various topics. The absence of Tom Hanks disappoints, but we find plenty of good bits here. The addition of some shots from the set help make “Classic” a good little piece. By the way, if you’re wondering, the adult Moscow doesn’t look much like Hanks; actually, he bears more of a resemblance to Sean Penn, I think.

The Work of Play goes for nine minutes, 54 seconds, and includes info from Mattel design manager Lily Martinez, Wild Planet Toys research moderator Kate Scott, Mattel VP of marketing Geoff Walker, Imperial Toy VP of marketing Tim Thompson, Imperial Toy presidents Art Hirsch and Peter Tiger, Imperial Toy product designer Tyler Russell, Wild Planet Toys senior research manager Jennifer Karsh, and Wild Planet Toys founder/CEO Daniel Grossman. “Play” digs into the world of the toy business. We view brainstorming sessions and see elements of how the companies develop their wares. Not exactly a deep view of these processes, “Play” at least gives us a decent glimpse of the toy industry. It proves informative and interesting, though it might’ve been nice to hear the experts discuss how the real business compares to its depiction in Big.

Next we find Hollywood Backstory: Big. The 21-minute and 15-second show presents notes from Marshall, Ross, Spielberg, Moscow, and actor Tom Hanks (in 1988). “Backstory” covers the basics of the script’s creation, its move toward production and Marshall’s hiring, casting, concerns about all the other body-changing movies coming out at the same time, performances and scene specifics, and the flick’s reception. Most of the material in “Backstory” already appears elsewhere. A few unique tidbits emerge – like how Spielberg’s more famous brother Steven – almost got involved in the flick. However, most of the program seems redundant after the other components.

Lastly, Carnival Party Newswrap lasts 92 seconds. It shows a glimpse of Big’s premiere party. It’s a short but interesting snippet.

Eight Deleted Scenes fill a total of 13 minutes, 41 seconds. We see “Billy’s Home Life” (0:47), “Susan Interrupts Wedding Shower” (2:00), “Josh Calls His Mom” (1:15), “Susan and Paul Having Breakfast” (0:48), “Josh and Billy Pick Up the Tuxedo” (1:23), “Quacky Duck” (2:54), “Josh and Susan Work Late” (1:34) and “Sequence of Events After Josh and Susan Fight” (2:58). If you watched the extended cut, you’ve already seen all of these segments.

We find no “new” deleted scenes on display, which makes this an odd feature. On one hand, if the disc included all of the sequences added to the extended cut, it’d be useful so we can watch them without having to take in the alternate version. Since only some of the extended cut’s extra bits show up here, the collection of scenes seems less productive. Anyway, at least you know you won’t need to bother with this set if you’ve already viewed the longer version of the film.

Note that five of these eight can be viewed with optional introductions from Penny Marshall. If you activate that choice, the total running time extends to 15 minutes, 10 seconds. She essentially just tells us what we’ll see. Marshall doesn’t give us any insight into the scenes, so don’t expect to learn anything from her remarks.

A few ads flesh out the package. We get two trailers as well as two TV spots.

Big overcame a series of negative possibilities to turn into a charming fable. Assured direction and excellent acting are just two of the many reasons the flick continues to amuse and delight after nearly 20 years. The DVD offers pretty decent picture and audio plus a mix of good extras highlighted by an abnormally strong commentary. This is a very nice little package.

If you don’t possess Big in your collection, you should, and this Blu-ray Disc is the one to have. However, if you already own the 2007 SE DVD, you’re probably fine with that. Both offer virtually identical audio and extras, and the picture upgrades found on the Blu-ray don’t offer huge improvements. This is a decent release but not a killer Blu-ray.

To rate this film visit the original review of BIG

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main