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Blu-ray Review: Big (1988)

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Twelve-year-old Josh Baskin (David Moscow) wants what every other pre-teen kid wants: a shitload of toys and the ability to talk to girls. Maybe even a chance to kiss one. But, more importantly, Josh wants to grow up so that he can enjoy the “free” lifestyle all grown-ups seem to have (which we don‘t, kids). One night, Josh makes his wish to be big known to an eerie, unplugged carnival machine. The next day, Josh wakes up to discover that he is now a 30-year-old man (Tom Hanks). Fleeing from his own house after his mother mistakes him for a burglar (or worse), Josh teams up with his best friend Billy (Jared Rusthon) and the two head across the bridge from Jersey into New York City.

Luckily for Josh, his innocent 12-year-old mind is just what businesses are looking for (if only it were that easy — as an eternal 12-year-old myself, I must say it’s hard to find such a gig right off the bat). In fact, Josh is exactly the kind of person toy manufacturer MacMillan (Robert Loggia, in one of his rarer non-bad guy roles) needs in order to keep afloat in the cutthroat world of toys. Josh’s purity also wears off on his co-worker Susan (Elizabeth Perkins), a rather promiscuous woman who has a tendency to shack up with ladder climbers — which attracts the negative attention of MacMillan Toys’ resident bully, Paul (John Heard).

But as time goes by and Josh begins to cope with the complicated grown-up world around him, he begins to really wonder if being big is all it’s cracked up to be (and it isn’t). Obviously, Josh Baskin never heard the old saying “Be careful what you wish for.”

I was about the same age as Josh’s inner child when Big first hit the screens in 1988 (ah, how I miss the '80s sometimes) and I loved every minute of it. Seeing it once again as an adult, I can appreciate the movie even more — and oh, how it makes me long to be a young lad once again.

Of course, Big wouldn’t be that big of a movie if it wasn’t for the wonderful casting of Tom Hanks. At the time, Hanks wasn’t known for his dramatic ability (the closest he had made it to “drama” prior to that was The Man With One Red Shoe, another remake of a French film), so his portrayal of a kid trapped in a man’s body astonished critics and regular moviegoers alike (earning him an Oscar nomination in the process). And whether he’s trying to eat mini-corn and caviar at a company party or sharing a gigantic floor keyboard with Robert Loggia (a scene that has since become legend), Big succeeds in being pure Tom Hanks gold.

Arriving on Blu-ray from Fox Home Entertainment, Big is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen ratio with 1080p/AVC resolution. While the transfer is much better than the older Standard-Def DVDs, the color palette seems kind of dull. Let’s put it this way: it’s good, but it doesn’t make one bow and worship it. The main soundtrack, an English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio, sounds well enough during the more “rambunctious” scenes (e.g. the carnival), but for the most part, the rear speakers aren’t given that much of an exercise. The original English Stereo sound is also included, along with three others: French (Stereo),  Spanish, and Portuguese (Mono). Subtitles are provided in English (SDH), Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin, and Cantonese.

Big’s special features start out with the wonderful option to watch the film in its original theatrical version (104 min) or its extended cut (130 min) via seamless branching. The extended cut adds more depth to several characters, but its length may put a few viewers off a bit. Additional features include an audio commentary (or, the “Big Brainstorming Audio Documentary” as it’s called here since it’s an edited-together job) by writers Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg; eight deleted scenes (five of which have intros by director Penny Marshall), all of which are featured in the extended cut; and several featurettes and trailers/TV spots.

When I first saw Big, I thought it was great. Re-visiting it as an adult, it’s even better. Sure, the Blu-ray audio and video may not meet some expectations, but this is still a wonderful title to have in your collection.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.