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20th Century Fox presents
Big (Extended Edition) (1988)

Paul: What is so special about Baskin?
Susan: He's a grownup!

- John Heard, Elizabeth Perkins, on Tom Hanks

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: May 15, 2007

Stars: Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, Mercedes Ruehl, John Heard
Director: Penny Marshall

MPAA Rating: PG for language
Run Time: 2h:10m:18s
Release Date: May 08, 2007
UPC: 024543381570
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+B+B B

DVD Review

It's kind of funny to say in a review of a movie called Big, but this extended edition is an abject reminder: less is more. Penny Marshall's charming movie cemented Tom Hanks as an A-list movie star—watching this you can feel him making good on the promise of movies like Splash, and sparing us Bosom Buddies: The Motion Picture. (He also doesn't have the matinee idol self-consciousness that has crept in to such well-fed performances as The Da Vinci Code.) The filmmaking doesn't involve a lot of risk taking, and this is about as down the middle a studio comedy as you'll ever see. But it really is quite charming, and makes good on a promising premise, in a way that such contemporaneous movies as 18 Again and Vice Versa couldn't even approach. (It's also served as a template for lots and lots of later movies, the most recent of which would be 13 Going on 30.)

Poor Josh Baskin is in the painful throes of early adolescence—interested in girls but scared of them, unsure of the changes happening to his body, sorting out his relationship with Mom as he's on the long road to becoming a man. As you almost certainly know by now, he makes a wish on a magic Zoltar machine at a carnival, and it comes true—poof, overnight he's transformed into an adult. Or more specifically, into Tom Hanks, and he's got to make his way in the world. The central joke of the movie is that Josh retains a kid's wonder in a man's body, and he doesn't have any of the jadedness or cynicism that adults wear like armor—he helps everyone he meets get in touch with their inner children, because he's quite literally a child himself. This is most pronounced in his new job, working at a toy company—the firm is portrayed with all the pettiness and interoffice backbiting of a Ricky Gervais routine, even though their business is the production of playthings. How can you make stuff for kids to have fun with if you're nothing but a joyless automaton?

Marshall and the writers, Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg, do a great job exploiting the comic potential of their material, and there a couple of scenes that have become iconic and classic—the most famous of these is probably Hanks and his boss, played by Robert Loggia, banging out Heart and Soul on a floor-size keyboard at F.A.O. Schwarz, but I've always been partial to Hanks and his new girlfriend, Elizabeth Perkins, jumping on his supercool trampoline in his impossibly spacious downtown Manhattan apartment—the shot from outside his window, the two of them giggling and popping up and down, just couldn't be sweeter. (You can see the appeal of turning this into a Broadway musical.) And certainly it's Hanks' star turn that drives the movie—if any winking had snuck into his performance, the whole house of cards would have fallen down, but instead the delicately spun web of magic realism lasts for the whole picture, right down to each last kernel on nibbled ears of baby corn. Perkins' role is kind of obligatory, but she's lovely in it; and John Heard is very funny as Josh's humorless office rival. Mercedes Ruehl plays Josh's forlorn mother, wondering what's happened to her little boy—she's fine, but it's kind of a reminder that as a movie star she never quite found her groove.

This DVD offers both the film's original theatrical cut (01h:44m:07s) and an extended edition, and you're really better off sticking to the former—the additions are pretty lumbering, and this just isn't a movie that should run over two hours. (Lots of the newly introduced material focuses on Billy, Josh's best friend, and some of it consists simply of longer sequences that already appear in the movie.) Also, the movie feels a little heavy with product placement—the folks at Pepsi and Pizza Hut certainly get their money's worth, and the brazenness sometimes borders on the offensive. But maybe that's taking things a little too seriously, and as the movie reminds us, it's worth taking time to stop and smell the cotton candy.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The transfer is certainly satisfactory, and the cinematography is worth noting for its Crayola box of colors, and because the director of photography was Barry Sonnenfeld, who has gone on to direct darker fare like Get Shorty.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoFrench, Spanishyes
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio quality is adequate, though unremarkable; the soundtrack tends to get a little cloying and overly emotive.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Bachelor Party, Cast Away, The Man With One Red Shoe, That Thing You Do!, The Sandlot, Heading Home
2 TV Spots/Teasers
8 Deleted Scenes
3 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Disc 1 holds both the theatrical cut (24 chapters) and the extended edition (32 chapters) of the film, and over the first only is what's billed as an audio documentary—DVD producer Pete Ventrella facilitates a conversation with the screenwriters, which includes their reflection on the project, its development and reception, and ample excerpts from tapes they made during their story development sessions. It's kind of a kick to hear the story getting hashed out in its very earliest stages, and to listen to Spielberg and Ross describe the workings of their one-time-only partnership.

Disc 2 offers a banquet of Tom Hanks trailers, and a package (15m:10s) of eight deleted scenes—some of them come with brief introductions from Penny Marshall, which are little more than narration. Ross, Spielberg and producer James L. Brooks dominate Big Beginnings (16m:29s), giving more on story development; and Chemistry of a Classic (23m:45s) includes new interview footage with Marshall, Perkins, Loggia, and the kid actors who played young Josh and Billy, now all grown up. (There's no new Hanks footage on this set.) The Work of Play (09m:54s) is a look at some of the film's real-life counterparts: adults who make toys for a living. An episode (21m:15s) of Hollywood Backstories offers standard making-of stuff, and there's in fact a lot of redundancy among the extras. And finally, a brief clip (01m:32s) from the film's opening on the Fox lot features a studio carnival with such late '80s headliners as Kristy McNichol and Barry Bostwick.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Big remains a charmer, even if it's all grown up and almost 20 years old now. The additions in the extended cut don't really bring much to the party, so it's not crucial to upgrade if you already own the title on DVD.

 


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