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We’ll have to wait until the weekend to see how Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds fare in their body-swap wish fulfillment, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to revisit Big, where a young boy wished he could skip most of his adolescence and advance right to adulthood.
I am a huge fan of Tom Hanks, as he is one of the few actors I will see in anything (waiting for the DVD for Larry Crowne, though). My love of Hanks extends far back into my childhood, and I remember Big as one of the first times I noticed him (second only to Joe vs. the Volcano).
When I was younger I really only knew this film as the one with ‘the giant piano’ and that Zoltar freaked me out a little. Revisiting this film as an adult though, allows me to experience just what about Big enabled Penny Marshall to become the first female director to rake in $100 million at the box office for a single film. While I had thought this was just a goofy 80s comedy, there’s a little bit more going on here.
Something that really struck me this time was Hanks’ performance. Watching him, it’s easy to see him just as Tom Hanks, of course, but he does a fantastic job of emulating the speech patterns and mannerisms of David Moscow’s younger Josh. It’s prominent enought to be noticeable, but not over the top to the point of cartoonishness. And that’s really what makes the whole film work.
As a 13-year old, Josh gets the luxury of experiencing the joys of adulthood: freedom to do what he wants, live on his own, get a cool-sounding job, and date a woman. He hasn’t yet learned all the ways society keeps adults restricted, and therefore life is a relative playground. And what’s ironic is that the adults around him are fascinated by his strange, innocent approach to everything. Now here’s a guy who thinks outside the box!
However, Josh also gets the not-so-fun things that come with adulthood, from navigating the corporate jungle all the way to figuring out his identity and place in the world. And best of all, that the biggest juveniles can actually be found in corporate boardrooms. My favorite line in the whole movie comes from Susan when she is asked by her former fling and crybaby Paul what she sees in Josh: “He’s a grown-up!”
Ultimately, of course, Josh decides to be a kid again, making some of us wish that it were just that easy to reverse the process of growing up. Just as Josh accepts his adolescence, Susan has also come to terms with being an adult, despite her affection for Josh’s whimsy and carefreeness. At the end of the movie, she could easily reverse the process (as she observes the secret of Zoltar), but chooses to remain 27. Perhaps knowing what comes shortly after 13 (high school hell, etc. etc.), she realizes that growing up should be a one-time deal. Or maybe she realizes that she would have nowhere to live, because no one would rent an apartment to a 13 year old, and that she won’t be able to drive a car. I prefer the first answer, though.