Mascott’s Movie Rewind – Big

Originally posted September 7th, 2010. 

Please note: In this article were a lot of pictures that don’t exist on the internet anymore. I’ve done what I can, but for others there’s not a whole lot I can do about that, and they’ve been excised. Sorry.

big

BIG
1988
DIRECTED BY PENNY MARSHALL

This is one article I was sure I needed to do the right way, and I knew there was only one sure way to do that. Being as I’ve just recently moved into my new office, I felt that there was finally nothing stopping me from doing what I’m about to show you.

Couch-Cushion-Fort1

Also, No Girls Allowed.

You didn’t write an article on BIG correctly if you didn’t write it from a fortification made from the cushions of every nearby seating apparatus you could find – I’m sorry, but that’s just basic journalistic credibility.

The movie starts off by introducing Josh Baskin, a 13 year old living in New Jersey. His best friend, Billy, clues him into the fact that he heard that a teenage girl likes him. He goes to a carnival to chat her up,  but ends up being too short to ride the rides with her. (Also, she’s apparently dating some dude that’s old enough to drive, which is just creepy.) In his moment of rejection, he inserts a a quarter into a ‘Zoltar Speaks’ fortune telling machine a bit away from the carnival, wishing he was “big.” The next morning, Tom Hanks wakes up in his bed. Or, I mean, the 13-year-old Josh Baskin has become the 30-year-old Josh Baskin, played by Tom Hanks. There’s no pedophilia in this movie (yet). Unable to stay at home as a 30-year-old man, Josh gets set up in New York City with help from Billy. Soon, he has an apartment and a job at a toy company. After a few days, Josh finds himself promoted from a computer programmer to VP of Toy Development, with all the perks that job comes with (an office and a shitload of toys). He starts a relationship with another executive, Susan Lawrence, played by Elizabeth Perkins, not cluing her into the fact that he’s starting a relationship with a woman fifteen years older then him. Billy, meanwhile, has been searching for the Zoltar machine, but Josh has become more and more engrossed in his new life, much to Billy’s disgust.

I once knew a writer, Ben, who could write and speak extensively on the subject of how he believed that watching SILVER SPOONS as a young man ruined his expectations for real life. (Sadly, Ben never had a decent race car bed, or a miniature train that you could ride from the living room to the kitchen.) After watching BIG, I can see what he meant – Josh Baskin has a a soda machine, arcade games and a trampoline in his penthouse. I’ve been slowly getting accustomed to having my own workspace (It’s in the basement, but it’smy office – it’s called Basement Office), and having the freedom to get and do whatever I wanted for it is exhilarating, however dangerous. You see, after watching BIG, I started looking into getting a trampoline for my office – not one of those little kiddie exercise trampolines, but a nice one (if, admittedly, a bit smaller). I checked around, took measurements, started rearranging to account for this prospective trampoline. “I wonder if I could maybe move the Scooby-Doo Pinball Machine so it would be over there… then the couch could just go. I could just get rid of the couch.”

Never mind that the ceiling is 7 feet tall, I didn’t care – I needed to have a trampoline. Around the time I began to wonder if you could have an office without a desk or a computer, I realized that what I was doing was silly and the trampoline from BIG was about to ruin my office. Luckily, I dodged that bouncy bullet, and began moving things in the other part of the basement to accommodate such a device.

Tom Hanks is really good in this movie. It’s not an easy role to play. He’s doing his impression of a 13-year-old boy throughout the entire flick, and he pulls it off in the usual “I’m a fantastic actor” Tom Hanks style. In fact, the performances are solid all across the board, from Tom Hanks at the top of the credits to Vaughn Sandman as “Boy on Baseball Field.” Despite being on screen for maybe half of the movie each, neither the hot but not-always-so-smart love interest nor the wise cracking redhead tween sidekick make me want to throw out the DVD player with the disc in it. A first for 80s movies!

Penny Marshall, the director, seems to be the obvious culprit behind why this movie is so genuine. She seems to have known just how she wanted the movie to turn out, and how she wanted the characters to be portrayed all from the very beginning. There’s a wonderful sense of consistency that you feel while watching this movie, and it’s because the perspective sort of shifts when the character Josh moves out of one world and into another. Regardless of his surroundings, he’s still the same person, and the director makes sure that the way the viewer is presented with his youthful outlook remains constant. The comedy also never gets goofy, like it so easily could. Mismatch some people and hilarity ensues isn’t the formula that the comedy in BIG works on, even though at first glance it seems like it would. It’s much more subtle, and so much the better for it. Penny Marshall would go on to direct A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, a movie that I’ve been told to see about 30 times, but have stayed away from so as to never have to think about Rosie O’Donnell.

Okay, we’ve got kind of a problem in this movie. It’s bad, sort of like how Marty McFly kills his parents in BACK TO THE FUTURE. Josh Baskin is 13.  Whether he’s 30 or 13, Josh is 13. However, Susan Lawrence does something that would cause Josh to have this look on his face as he walks into work the next day.

VIWEED

That is the look of a 13-year-old that went and saw him some boobies.

I’m sure that I’m not the first person that’s brought this up, but it seems like this movie is great support for Mary Kay Letourneau‘s defense of, “But he was so mature…” If you follow the train tracks of logic here, she’s realized that she is attracted to young boys regardless of what they look like, and they’re the only people she can be around in any kind of relationship. She just didn’t know it until she was tricked into dating one.

In fact, once she does find out that her steady boyfriend is a 13 year old, she seems largely unfazed. She leans on a wall, sighs, and looks at Josh in a way that says “Well isn’t this quite the silly predicament we’re in?” If there was anything in the world, a single thing, that would cause a high powered businesswoman to have a nervous breakdown, you’d think it would be finding out that her man is in junior high. Some tears, please, at the very least.

Favorite Line – Scott Brennen (Jon Lovitz): See that girl over there in the red? Say “hi” to her and she’s yours. She’ll have her legs around you so tight you’ll be begging for mercy.
Josh: Well, I’ll stay away from her then.

Most Thankful For – Jared Rushton, the kid who plays Billy.

"Fuck."

“Fuck.”

I’ve often wondered what kind of people rated movies in the 70s and 80s, because the shit that they got away with back then always amazes me, slightly stricter guidelines aside. Billy gets away with saying “fuck” in this movie, which just happens to be rated PG. There are a few stories about how JAWS pulled a PG rating when Spielberg bought the MPAA with booze and hookers, but I’m not quite sure how BIG did it, especially with all the mental pedophilia, swear words and angry racquetball playing yuppies.  I’m thinking they got them Legos – NO! Lincoln Logs.

Best Actor – Now, I might have a problem with Tom Hanks. You can decide for yourself if this is healthy. I’d say I fancy myself a pretty decent actor, maybe even burgeoning on “good” based on what people have said about my previous exploits on the stage and screen (Public Access ALWAYS adds 10 pounds).  But every time – every goddamned time – I watch CAST AWAY, PHILADELPHIA, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN or THE TERMINAL, I see Tom Hanks and realize that even with all the training, reading, working and staging in the world, I will never be 1/10 as good an actor as he is, and it sends me spiraling into a Baskin Robbins binge.

Goddamnit, Tom Hanks.

What Date You Should Watch This On – Good first date movie if you’re under 30 or dating a normal chick. If you’re over 30 or dating a stupid girl, you’ll either be showing her something that will make the both of you feel incredibly old, or something she’ll never stop asking questions about.

“But I don’t get it…”
“It’s magic. It made him younger because he asked it to.”
“So it’s like a genie?”
“Yes. just like a genie.”
“…..But it’s not a genie.”

Save it for third or later.

While I Was Watching This Movie, I… – Stepped on a really nice pair of headphones.

While I was Writing This Article, I… – Thought real hard about making fun of the slogan on the poster, but it was just too easy.

Recommended? – Yes. It’s not going to surprise you with some unexpected twists or turns, but it’s a solid flick. Certainly on the short list of movies to see before you die, if there is such a thing as a short list of movies to see before you die. Did you know that some people still haven’t seen Indiana Jones? It’s a tragedy.

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