BigcoverGrade:  A-
Entire family:  No, unless you send them for snacks during two scenes
1988, 104/129 min., Color
Rated PG for language and adult situations
20th Century Fox
Aspect ratio:  1.85:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HD MA 5.1
Includes:  Blu-ray, DVD, sound-chip packaging
Bonus features:  B
Trailer

The Big 25th Anniversary Blu-ray offers two ways to watch the film—the original 104-minute theatrical version, and a 129-minute “extended edition.” And so what if that extended edition was available previously on a two-disc DVD that was released six years ago? It’s the first time that the material is available on Blu-ray, and this combo pack should be a welcome addition to the libraries of film fans.

If Splash was the film that gave the Bosom Buddies TV star his first big movie role, Big was the one that showed the industry and audiences that this guy Hanks can act. He earned his first of five Best Actor Oscar nominations for his performance, and it’s great to have both the theatrical release and extended version on Blu-ray finally.

The idea for Big came during a lunch conversation and the first draft flowed in just four months. One day later, it was a quick sell to producer James L. Brooks, who told his friend Penny Marshall that she had to sign on as director. But the second draft took writers Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg (Steven’s little sister) a full year. During that time, they learned that three other films about body transformations were coming out. Their choice was, hold out for Tom Hanks, whom they had in mind when they wrote the script, or rush to be first with whomever they could cast.

What were the other three movies? It’s hard for most people to recall, because Big became a huge hit and remains memorable because of Hanks’ virtuoso performance. You have no trouble whatsoever believing he’s a 12-year-old boy who gets his wish from an unplugged carnival fortune-telling machine and is transformed into a near-30-year-old man. Driven from his home by his mother (Mercedes Ruehl), who thinks he’s a pervert or kidnapper, the suddenly adult and adrift Josh Baskin goes to New York City and finds work at a toy company—all the while hoping to track down the carnival so he can reverse his wish.

Whether playing opposite his 12-year-old best friend (Jared Rushton), a cubicle co-worker (Jon Lovitz), an arrogant idea man (John Heard), or a sexually active career woman (Elizabeth Perkins), Hanks, as a stranger in a strange land, gives us equal portions of laughs and insights into the worlds of both adults and adolescents. Big also offers up a very funny satire of corporate ladder climbing, as we see how quickly Josh rises in the toy company because of his common-sense kid insights. 

What’s a marketing report?” he asks the big boss, wanting to know.
“Exactly,” the big guy says, thinking Josh just dismissed the report he himself was questioning.

BigscreenWatching Big again confirms what a genius Hanks can be, but we learn on a short feature that Marshall also deserves some of the credit. Her instinct was to have David Moscow, who plays young Josh, act in every one of Hanks’ scenes so that the older actor could see the situation through the eyes of a pre-teen. Marshall also had the right idea when she opted not to have Hanks and toy boss Robert Loggia choreographed in their now famous “Heart and Soul” and “Chopsticks” step routine on a giant floor keyboard. They were told they had to work it out on their own, and it looks fresh and improvised.

Big the theatrical version sports a PG rating, but be warned that there are a handful of colorful words, including a surprise appearance of the “F-word,” and  one scene of sexuality where a bashful but eager Josh gently touches his first bra.  On the plus side, parents should  know that the Extended Edition isn’t any worse in terms of sexuality or language, but either cut of Big is really more of a PG-13 comedy. Yet, it’s pitched so convincingly from the point of view of a child that all of it seems more innocent . . . and great family fun. Even the work day is kid-friendly, since Josh becomes a toy-tester and acts like a big kid in meetings.

By the way, those other three body-swapping movies? Like Father Like Son, Vice Versa, and Eighteen Again.

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