Big appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That was a change from the original 1999 DVD, and one for the better, though I didn’t see as many improvements as I might have expected.
As with the prior disc, 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 reflected a slight decline from the prior transfer. I thought the non-anamorphic Big gave us more consistently bright, bold hues. Don’t get me wrong – the colors of the anamorphic transfer usually looked good. However, they could be a bit pale at times, an issue that didn’t affect the prior image.
Unlike the old transfer, 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. Source flaws also declined here. They weren’t substantial during the old transfer, but for the new one, they almost totally vanished. Other than a speck or two, this one was clean.
Blacks seemed dark and dense, while shadows were clear and smooth. I liked a lot of this transfer, and seriously considered that it deserved a “B+”. However, the softness interfered a little too much. In the end, the new image looked a little better than the old one, but it wasn’t a substantial upgrade.
As for the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Big, it appeared to closely replicate the old disc’s audio. 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.
While the old DVD included almost no extras, this new version presents quite a few. Of course, the main attraction comes from the extended cut of the film found on Disc One. I’ve already discussed it in the body of my review, but I wanted to mention it as a plus here as well.
Also on the first platter, we 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.
As an aside, even though the DVD’s case mentions the presence of a Penny Marshall commentary, none appears here. A blurb at the top of the back cover lists this, though it’s not on the specs reported lower on that page, and it certainly is nowhere to be found on the disc unless it’s a well-hidden Easter egg. Since I’m not sure I could handle two hours of Marshall’s whiny voice, the commentary’s absence may be a good thing, but it remains strange that the package promises it.
Now we shift to DVD Two and its components. 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 DVD Two 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 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. Under Fox Flix, we also find previews for Bachelor Party, Cast Away, The Man With One Red Shoe, That Thing You Do! and The Sandlot: Heading Home.
At least the movie delights. 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 DVD collection, you should, and this two-disc set is the one to have. It improves both picture and supplements when compared to the old movie-only release. It’s also a nice upgrade for fans who already own the original, especially if they like extras. I don’t think the new anamorphic transfer blows away the prior image, but it’s better, and the supplements add real value to the set.
To rate this film visit the original review of BIG