Tom Hanks Project – “Big” Review

14 Jan

bigposterIt’s incredible how well this movie holds up 25 years later. The reason “Big” works so well is Hanks’ ability to perfectly mimic the actions of a 12 & 13 year-old boy. It’s the kind of role that could be unwatchable in lesser hands (see Robin Williams in “Jack”) but Hanks makes it endlessly charming and undeniably great. Seriously, contemplate for a moment the fact that they wanted DE NIRO in this role. Only Hanks has that true childlike spark in his eyes that makes this totally believable and immersive.


After being told he isn’t tall enough to ride a roller coaster to impress a crush, Josh Baskin wishes to be “big” on a carnival machine (that we find out is unplugged – ooooooooh!) He wakes up the next morning as a grown-ass Tom Hanks with a hairy chest and a man-sized dong*. He tries to tell his mom, mom freaks out, so he bikes to school and tells his best friend Billy what’s up.  

*Implied, not showcased, thank-you-very-much. (I’m angrily eyeballing you, Wolf of Wall Street.)


Billy decides Josh has to hide out in the city, since the police are looking for the guy who freaked his mom out. They get him a crummy motel room with gun shots and a guy yelling into the phone in Spanish and lil Josh is freaked out*. But they get him an entry level job at a toy company and soon he’s blowing his first paycheck on junk food and silly string and having Billy over for good times.

*Brilliant performance by Hanks. He gives that little-kid-all-alone kind of crying performance that makes us all feel vulnerable and a little broken inside. You just want to scoop him up.


Hanks quickly rises to VP of the toy company after a chance encounter with the boss at the toy store leads to the classic giant piano scene. Fellow VP Susan falls for him, he tells her she can sleep over as long as he’s on top (of the bunk bed) and soon enough they’re having real sleep overs and he’s drinking coffee now. Billy is on the hunt for the Zoltar machine and Josh is settling into being an adult with a girlfriend and high powered job. We’re slowly losing Josh to his new adult life, as he pulls away from Billy and stops spending as much time with him.


As much as Josh loves the VP company life coming up with digital comic books and banging his girlfriend* and having a trampoline in his sweet pad, he misses being a kid. He wants to play baseball and misses his friends and mom and isn’t ready to jump from 13 to 30, so he leaves mid-meeting at work and goes to the Zoltar machine Billy found** and wishes to be young again. Susan drives him home and sees him turn back into a little kid and her head explodes.  

*There really has to be a nicer way to say this, come on now. Big is far more innocent than frat party vocabulary – the kid is only 13, he’s too sweet for that kind of brass language.

**Billy really needs a shout-out, because he actually acts even more grown-up than Josh does, in some respects. He’s about to give up on Josh and the whole thing, when he sees Josh’s mom through his window and his this adorably sweet exchange wherein he promises her that Josh will be home soon. He then goes to work calling every place on the “might have Zoltar” list until he finds the machine all by himself.

Laugh Out Loud: Zack: 65 Caitlin: 66 Our laugh total was high, but not exceptionally high, though our laughs were true and genuine and we had permanent smiles etched on our faces. After a number of movies where we had a stilted laugh or laughed at how ridiculous a scene was, we really had some hearty laughs here. I agree, all of the laughs at this film were genuine – this laugh count feels far more accurate than most of our previous ones.

Cry: Both Zero. I’ll be honest, I was semi close a couple times when Josh was scared and alone in his shitty motel room, but never really got there. Still, really sweet movie that made me feel the feels. I totally cried the first time I saw this movie, when Josh was feeling so scared in the creepy hotel he started out in. I’m sick today, though, so I was too miserable to give myself over completely to the feels. Still, I wanted to hug him.

Cover Eyes: Both Zero. “We didn’t cover our eyes at all, did we,”  -me 10 minutes after we watched and I started writing this. “No, why would we?” -Caitlin. I do remember feeling a bit embarrassed when Josh touches Susan’s chest for the first time when I very first saw Big, because I was watching this with my parents. So I may have kinda closed my eyes then.


Romantic Interest: Zack: 8 Caitlin: 8 On one hand, it’s quite creepy. Elizabeth Perkins’ Susan (Yes, that’s Celia from “Weeds) falls for Hanks’ Josh even though he has the maturity of a 12-year old. Sure, he’s a sweet 12-year old, but still. She doesn’t notice that when she’s trying to tell him how vulnerable she is, he just wants to stick his head out the top of the limo. That aside, they are sweet together and he does bring out her innocent side and she truly is better off with him than the dad from “Home Alone” who bullies Josh and beats him up after Squash. And he really enjoys her company. We aren’t all that sad for them when he turns back into a kid, but man will she need a lot of therapy. All in all, a pretty solid couple all things considered. I think the romance is absolutely sweet as can be. The first time I saw this movie, I saw nothing wrong in it at all, because the acting is so delicate that you just smile at the sweet confusion when Josh declares, “I get to be on top.” I understood the double-entendre, but you know what he means, so it’s just kind of funny and adorable. I truly believe the creepiness and possible crassness has only crept in as people started trying to make sense of a make-believe kind of movie. I think the whole point is that Josh brings out the whimsy and love of life in Susan that she’s lost after years of men always wanting things from her and being jaded from the “read between the lines” kind of interactions that Josh lacks. If you just suspend belief, I think you root for the romance, but you also understand and appreciate the reality of what happens at the end.


Hanks: Zack: 9.8 Caitlin: 9.8 The degree of acting difficulty is off the charts, but Hanks completes the triple axle and sticks the landing. It is so easy to make this cheesy or stupid or make the little kid-isms lame, but it isn’t lame for one second. It would take a 10 to beat Hanks’ “Big” performance. Unfortunately, Hanks went up against Dustin Hoffman’s 10 in “Rain Man.” Most any other year, Hanks wins best actor. At least he took home the Golden Globe. Hanks absolutely did a wonderful job in this film. He is totally believable – he never breaks character, never comes off as mocking. Just a brilliant performance.

Movie: Zack: 9.8 Caitlin: 9.8 An all-time favorite. Easily the best Hanks film of the ’80s. Caitlin felt really crummy and stayed home from work sick today and wasn’t in the mood for much, but “Big” really hit the spot. It always does. I’ve watched hours of special features this week and just watched the movie and am now digging into the audio commentary. “Big” rules. Big today, while I was feeling absolutely miserable, was like a warm cup of soup and a gentle back scratch from your mom. It was just what I needed to forget my misery and be lifted up, if only for a little while. Everybody needs to remember their inner-kid sometimes.


One Response to “Tom Hanks Project – “Big” Review”


  1. Introduction to The Tom Hanks Project | rockloveaustin - January 14, 2014

    […] Big – 1988 Preview | Review  […]

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