After being embarrassed at a local fair for being too short for a carnival ride, Josh finds Zoltar, a fortune telling game, and makes a wish to be big. The next morning, Josh wakes up to find his wish came true and he’s a twelve year old boy living in the body of an adult man. He makes his way back to the fairgrounds but finds it abandoned, with the Zoltar game gone.
With the help of his friend Billy, Josh finds himself in a low-rent apartment in New York City to hide out until they can find out where to find the Zoltar game. When they find out it would take about a month to get information on the game’s location, Josh finds a job working for MacMillan Toy Company in data entry. He impresses the CEO, Mr. MacMillan with his youthful energy and catches the eye of Susan, a company executive. Josh is quickly promoted and begins to experience what life is like as adult, while Billy continues to try to find Zoltar to bring his friend back home.
This is one of my favorite movies from the 1980s and one of my favorite performances from Tom Hanks. You can argue that this movie is not a true romantic comedy – if you take out the romance with Susan, does the story change much? Honestly, I would say yes! Josh’s blossoming romance with Susan is part of Josh’s and Susan’s character development and soon becomes the focus of the film.
Big is definitely dated, especially with the technology. But watching it today, the old school toys and computers add even more charm to the film. Directed by the late Penny Marshall, Big is not what you would call an outrageous comedy, despite its outrageous premise. Marshall keeps it wonderfully contained as an amusing coming of age film, carried by Hanks’s irresistibly funny performance. The movie lives or dies on the role of adult Josh, dependent on an actor’s ability to play a child believably enough to have us buy into the premise. It’s incredibly hard to imagine anyone else playing Josh – Robert DeNiro had been in the running… can you imagine?
While not perfect, Big is simply a sweet film with some genuine laughs and really fun performances. I don’t know how anyone can watch this movie and not enjoy it, especially when you get to see Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia play Heart and Soul on a walking piano in the middle of F.A.O. Schwartz.
I can see why some may not view it as a straight rom-com, but that’s okay. If it means more people will watch and enjoy it, I’m good with labeling it as something else. Regardless, it’s a comedy classic that not only earned Tom Hanks his first Oscar nomination, but it became the first film by a female director to earn more than $100 million dollars at the box office. Watch it. And if you’ve already seen it, watch it again!