Big (1988) – Starring Tom Hanks – Review

Big (1988) – Starring Tom Hanks – Review

“Big” – a film that whimsically waltzes through the tightrope of fantasy and reality, innocence and maturity, comedy and poignancy. Directed by Penny Marshall and released in 1988, this movie is the cinematic equivalent of a heartwarming embrace intertwined with squirms of adolescent awkwardness. Tom Hanks, portraying the 12-year-old Josh Baskin trapped in a 30-year-old body, navigates the puzzling world of adulthood with a charm that is as disarming as it is delightful.

The Magical Transformation

The wistful heart of the film beats in a mysterious fortune-telling machine, Zoltar, found by young Josh at a carnival. With a wish to be big, the world turns topsy-turvy, and the once diminutive Josh wakes up with the stature of a man. Armed with the curiosity of a child but encased in an adult exterior, the city unfolds as a playground, where every interaction, object, and experience becomes a discovery—creating delightful spectacles, like the iconic piano scene at FAO Schwarz.

Casting Tom Hanks: A Genius Stroke

Tom Hanks’ casting is nothing short of serendipitous brilliance. A role that could’ve stumbled into the abyss of overacting, Hanks’ portrayal is a masterclass in subtlety and authenticity. His physical comedy, whether it’s a goofy dance or a baffled expression, never feels forced but is rather an organic extension of the child navigating an oversized world and body.

Behind the Big Scenes

Diving behind the curtain, “Big” was nurtured by a nest of creatives who breathed life into its enchanting premise. Director Penny Marshall maneuvered the project with a compassionate lens that cared for the characters’ emotional integrity amidst the comedic adventures. Her decision to set the tone that resonated with both fantastical childlike wonder and the more grounded, mature scenarios speaks volumes of her nuanced storytelling prowess.

In terms of production design, “Big” smartly uses its settings as a canvas to mirror Josh’s internal experiences. His initial, terrifying night in a low-budget hotel symbolizes his abrupt, uncomfortable thrust into adulthood. Conversely, his oversized loft, filled with boyish wonders like a trampoline and pinball machine, becomes a sanctuary reflecting his childlike essence.

A Delicate Matter: The Relationship

Now, for the elephant in the room or rather, the fortune-telling machine in the carnival. The romantic relationship between adult Josh and Susan (Elizabeth Perkins) is a nuanced ballet of emotions and ethics. Their relationship is tender, funny, and filled with genuine affection. However, it’s also layered with an undeniable unease, considering Josh’s actual age.

The film does dance on thin ice here, navigating the waters of romance and physical intimacy with a careful, albeit not flawless, touch. It successfully avoids plummeting into explicit discomfort but leaves enough room for contemporary audiences to question the ethical implications and weirdness of this unique romantic liaison.

Musical Notes

The film’s music is a sweet serenade that comfortably cloaks the narrative. It carries the innocence and wonder of childhood while also offering more dramatic, emotional undertones to complement the story’s deeper, more introspective moments. It works hand-in-hand with the scenes, enhancing the emotions without overpowering the visuals or performances.

Laughs, Love, and Learning

“Big” invites us into a playground where the slides are slippery, and the swings fly high between hilarity and heart. It’s a journey of rediscovering the simplicity and honesty of childhood amidst the convoluted corridors of adulthood. The film, while garnished with humor and fantasy, also offers a delectable dish of introspection about growth, love, and the intrinsic values that should never fade, even as the candles on our birthday cakes multiply.

In the vast cinema garden, “Big” blossoms as a flower with petals of pure cinematic joy, rooted in the soil of heartfelt storytelling and watered by the performances and creativity of its cinematic gardeners. A film that balances between the realms of wonder and weirdness, creating a tapestry of emotions that continue to resonate, question, and enchant.

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