Big: 25th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
20th Century Fox / 1988 / 104 mins / PG
Big is every child's wildest fantasy; complete freedom as an adult. What 13-year-old didn't want to stay up late, watching movies and eating candy until your stomach turns? To live the life of an adult through a child's eyes is the charming spell this fantastical comedy casts on the viewer. It's a movie both kids and adults can relate to for both its genuine humor and emotion. Plus, it's just a lot of fun to watch Tom Hanks acting like an eternally-young goof.
13-year-old Josh seems to have a great childhood with his best friend Billy, but there are times where his short stature and family get in the way. Tired of being labeled a child, he makes the wish of being an adult on the mysterious Zoltar fortune-telling machine at the local carnival. He awakes the next morning to find that he is now a child in Tom Hanks' body. Realizing he's made a big mistake, he escapes to a dirty apartment in New York and assumes a job as a data clerk to pay for it until Billy can track down the elusive Zoltar machine. But when it turns out that Josh lands the dream job of working as a toy marketing executive, he may not want to return to the life of an early teenager.
What makes Big such a classic comedy of the body swap sub-genre is its innocent nature and genuine plot. This is partially due to Tom Hanks' exceptional performance as a fish out of water. He doesn't just go for the easy gags or the stereotypical vision most older writers have of a child's mind. The first night Josh spends in the dangerous streets of New York is met with fear and anxiety of being all alone in a scary new place. Hanks manages to hit all the right notes with this performance by not going too over-the-top as he brings a subtle charm to having the mind of a kid.
While the plot does arrive at the inevitable outcome, the journey is treated with a real emotional tone that is all too relatable. It goes for a bit of the heavy sentimental material, but it's surprisingly effective. Again, a big part of this is due to Tom Hanks. He treats the role of a kid in an adult body with more realism and humanity than most actors would. Even though he is undeniably funny, Hanks does much more than just play it up for laughs. It's that kind of acting that places Big head over heels above any other entry in the body-switch genre.
For a comedy from the 1980's, Fox has delivered a surprisingly solid Blu-ray. The picture quality, while it does have some noise and grain, features some impressively bright colors. It's not the greatest transfer, but still a worthy one. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is very superb mix with plenty of great background sound effects and crystal-clear dialogue.
Unlike the previous DVD releases, this Blu-ray comes fully-loaded with special features. For starters, there is a rather unorthodox audio commentary with writers/co-producers Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg. It's mostly a collection of recorded segments from the brainstorming sessions before the film was written. This is a very interesting feature revealing the birth of the story in a manner similar to how Walt Disney's meeting notes were recorded onto the Bambi DVD.
Three big featurettes are also included. "Big Beginnings" features not only Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg, but also James Brooks discussing the origins of the movie. Delving further into the film is "AMC Backstory: Big" which examines all the key elements of the film. "Chemistry of a Classic", a retrospective with the cast and crew. Finally, "The Work of Play" is neat little segment about the people who actually work with and develop toys.
Rounding out the disc is some quick footage from the movie premiere, deleted scenes with introductions from the director, theatrical trailers and TV spots.
Big is a true comedy classic that manages to stand tall over the test of time for Tom Hanks' unforgettable delivery. The fact that he could make a seemingly cliche and silly concept so effective is a testament to his acting abilities. Credit should also be given to Penny Marshall for injecting the right amount of logic and plenty of memorable shots. It's a charming piece of comedic fantasy that is too good to pass up, especially on this stellar Blu-ray release.