Big is a 1988 American fantasy comedy-drama film directed by Penny Marshall and stars Tom Hanks as Josh Baskin, a pre-adolescent boy whose wish to be "big" transforms him physically into an adult. The film also stars Elizabeth Perkins, David Moscow, John Heard, and Robert Loggia, and was written by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg. It was produced by Gracie Films and distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byPenny Marshall
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyBarry Sonnenfeld
Edited byBarry Malkin
Music byHoward Shore
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • June 3, 1988 (1988-06-03)
Running time
104 minutes (theatrical)
130 minutes (extended edition)
CountryUnited States
Budget$18 million[1]
Box office$151.7 million[1]

Upon release, Big was met with wide critical acclaim, particularly for Hanks' performance. It was a huge commercial success as well, grossing $151 million worldwide against a production budget of $18 million, and it proved to be pivotal to Hanks' career, establishing him as a major box-office draw as well as a critical favorite.[2] The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor (Hanks) and Best Original Screenplay.

Plot edit

Twelve-year-old Josh Baskin tries to impress a girl by going on a carnival ride but is refused as he is too short. Dejected, he inserts a coin into an antique fortune-teller machine called Zoltar, and makes a wish to be "big". It dispenses a card stating "Your wish is granted", but Josh discovers the machine has been unplugged the entire time.

The next morning, Josh discovers that the Zoltar machine can actually make wishes come true, as he has grown physically into an adult. He tries to locate the machine, but finds that the carnival has moved on. Returning home, he desperately tries to explain his predicament to his mother, who panics and chases him from the house thinking he is a stranger who has kidnapped her son. He then finds his best friend Billy at his school and convinces him of his identity by reciting a song that only they know. With Billy's help, Josh learns that it will take at least six weeks to find the Zoltar machine again, so Josh rents a room in a flophouse in New York City and gets a job as a data entry clerk at the MacMillan Toy Company.

The Walking Piano, as featured in Big

Josh meets the company's owner, Mr. MacMillan, at FAO Schwarz, and impresses him with his insight into current toys and his child-like enthusiasm. They play duets ("Heart and Soul" and "Chopsticks") on the store's Walking Piano, and MacMillan invites Josh to a massive marketing campaign pitch meeting with senior executives. Unimpressed with the toy being pitched, Josh shocks and challenges the executives with a simple declaration that the toy is not fun, and while his follow-up suggestions invigorate the team for new ideas, he earns the animosity of Paul Davenport, the pitch's leader. Meanwhile, a pleased MacMillan promotes Josh to Vice President of Product Development. He soon attracts the attention of Susan Lawrence, a fellow executive, and a romance begins to develop, much to the dismay of her former boyfriend Davenport. Josh becomes increasingly entwined in his adult life by spending time with Susan, mingling with her friends, and entering into a steady relationship with her. His ideas become valuable assets to MacMillan Toys; however, he begins to forget what it is like to be a child, and his tight schedule rarely allows him to spend time with Billy.

MacMillan asks Josh to come up with proposals for a new line of toys. He is intimidated by the need to formulate the business aspects of the proposal, but Susan says that she will handle the business end while he comes up with the ideas. Nevertheless, he feels pressured and longs for his old life. When he expresses doubts to Susan and attempts to explain that he is a child, she interprets this as fear of commitment on his part and dismisses his explanation.

Josh learns from Billy that the Zoltar machine is now at Sea Point Park, and he leaves in the middle of his presentation to MacMillan and the other executives. Susan also leaves and encounters Billy, who tells her where Josh went. At the park, Josh finds the machine, unplugs it, and makes a wish to become a child again. He is then confronted by Susan for running off, but upon seeing the machine and the fortune, she realizes that he was telling the truth and becomes despondent that their relationship will end. Josh thanks her for their time together and suggests she use the machine to turn herself into a little girl. Susan declines but offers to drive Josh back to New Jersey. After sharing an emotional goodbye with Susan, Josh transforms into a child again before reuniting with his family and Billy.

Cast edit

Production edit

The Italian film Da grande (1987) has been said to be the inspiration for Big.[3][4] Ross and Spielberg developed the story in one hour; days after the script was completed they sold it to James L. Brooks and 20th Century Fox.[5]

Anne's brother Steven Spielberg was attached to direct the film and wanted to cast Harrison Ford as Josh but Spielberg dropped out when his son Max was born and also due to scheduling conflicts with Empire of the Sun (1987).[6][7][8] Spielberg would later say that his decision to not direct the film was not to take any credit away from his sister.[9] Kevin Costner, Steve Guttenberg, Warren Beatty, Dennis Quaid and Matthew Modine were all offered the role of Josh, all of whom turned it down.[10][11][12] Albert Brooks was also offered the role but turned it down as he didn't want to play a kid.[13][14] Jeff Bridges was also considered for the role.[15] John Travolta wanted to play Josh, but the studio wasn't interested in casting him.[16] Sean Penn was considered for the role of Josh, but Marshall deemed him too young. Gary Busey auditioned for the role of Josh, but Marshall didn't think he could pull off playing an adult.[10] Andy García read for Josh, but one of the studio executives didn't want to spend $18 million for "a kid to grow to be Puerto Rican" (García is actually Cuban).[10] Debra Winger tried to convince Marshall to rewrite Josh into a woman.[17] Robert De Niro was cast in the lead role with Elizabeth Perkins. He later dropped out due to "scheduling conflicts" and was replaced by Tom Hanks. Had DeNiro accepted, the script would have reflected Billy being the central character, as they felt Jared Rushton bore resemblance to an immature Robert De Niro.[18][19] Hanks and Loggia made two cardboard pianos and practiced them at home;[20] the studio hired doubles in case Hanks and Loggia didn't get it right.[21] Prior to filming, Hanks spent time with Jared Rushton and David Moscow and attempted to emulate Moscow's body language and acting style in order to make a convincing performance of being the adult version of the child actor.

At the time of the film's release, Big (1988) was part of a series of twin films featuring an age-changing plot produced during the late 1980s, including Like Father Like Son (1987), 18 Again! (1988), Vice Versa (1988) and 14 Going on 30 (1988).[22][23]

Reception edit

Box office edit

During its opening weekend, the film opened in second place behind Crocodile Dundee II, earning $8.2 million.[24] The film ultimately grossed nearly $115 million in the United States and Canada and $36.7 million internationally, totaling $151.7 million worldwide.[1][25] It was the first feature film directed by a woman to gross over $100 million.[26]

Critical response edit

Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised Hanks's performance, writing "Wide-eyed, excited and wonderfully guileless, [he] is an absolute delight, and the film is shrewd in relieving him of the responsibility to behave furtively and hide his altered condition."[27] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune felt "Hanks proves himself to be an adept comedian here"; however, he wrote the film "is at its best when romance blooms at a toy company where Elizabeth Perkins is an executive and Hanks has become a star vice president with his innocent approach to picking best-selling toys."[28] Roger Ebert, in his Chicago Sun-Times review, wrote: "Big is a tender, soft-hearted, and cheerful movie, well-directed by Penny Marshall and with a script by Anne Spielberg and Gary Ross that has a lot of fun with simple verbal misunderstandings ...Hanks, who had a tendency to push too hard, I thought, in Nothing in Common, this time finds a vulnerability and sweetness for his character that's quite appealing."[29]

Jay Boyar of the Orlando Sentinel highlighted Hanks for his "invincible amiability" and further wrote "Elizabeth Perkins gives a smart, sexy performance as Susan, and Robert Loggia has a crusty whimsicality as Josh's boss." Altogether, he wrote "Big isn't a heavy-message movie, but there are a couple of ideas behind it, ideas that help focus the action. Marshall and the screenwriters want us to know that we should stay in touch with the child inside us."[30] Duane Byrge, reviewing for The Hollywood Reporter, wrote: "Keeping it spry and winningly light, director Penny Marshall doesn't hammer any themes or satire into the film; she, quite shrewdly, keeps Big likeably small. The comedy is natural and unforced, in no small part because of Hanks' wonderfully slapstick performance."[31] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times felt the film "manages to be funny, warm, sophisticated and above all, imaginative, from start to finish ... It is also a personal triumph for Tom Hanks; Nothing in Common and now Big confirm his position as the screen's premier young light comedian. Hanks recalls the amiable charm of the young Jimmy Stewart and Jack Lemmon, yet his bemused personality is as contemporary as the yuppies he plays so well."[32] John Simon of the National Review described Big as "an accomplished, endearing, and by no means mindless fantasy".[33]

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film scored a 98% rating based on 80 reviews, with an average rating of 7.90/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Refreshingly sweet and undeniably funny, Big is a showcase for Tom Hanks, who dives into his role and infuses it with charm and surprising poignancy."[34] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 20 critics.[35] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[36]

Accolades edit

Award Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards[37] Academy Award for Best Actor Tom Hanks Nominated
Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[38][39] Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Tom Hanks Won

The film is number 23 on Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies. In 2000, it was ranked 42nd on the American Film Institute's "100 Years…100 Laughs" list.[40] In June 2008, AFI named it the tenth-best film in the fantasy genre.[41] In 2008, it was selected by Empire as one of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time."[42]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Adaptations edit

Film remakes edit

In 2004, Indian remakes titled New in Tamil-language starring S.J. Suryah and Naani starring Mahesh Babu in Telugu-language were released.[45][46] Also, an Indian Hindi-language remake titled Aao Wish Karein starring Aftab Shivdasani was released in 2009.[47]

Broadway musical edit

In 1996, the film was adapted into a Broadway musical. It featured music by David Shire, lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr., and a book by John Weidman.[48] Directed by Mike Ockrent, and choreographed by Susan Stroman, it opened on April 28, 1996, and closed on October 13, 1996, after 193 performances.

Television show edit

The first attempt at adapting the film as a television series came in 1990, with a sitcom pilot produced for CBS that starred Bruce Norris as Josh, Alison LaPlaca as Susan, and Darren McGavin as Mr. MacMillan; it was not picked up as a series.[citation needed]

On September 30, 2014, Fox announced that a television remake, loosely based on the film, was planned. Written and executive produced by Kevin Biegel and Mike Royce, it dealt with what it means to be an adult and kid in present times.[49]

In popular culture edit

A Zoltan fortune-teller at Gameroom Show

The fictional Zoltar Speaks fortune-telling machine portrayed in the film was modeled after the real-life 1960s machine Zoltan,[50][51] the name differing by one letter. In 2007, the Nevada-based animatronic company Characters Unlimited was awarded a trademark for Zoltar Speaks[52] and began selling fortune-telling machines with that name.[53]

The film is referenced in the DC Extended Universe film Shazam!. In the scene in which Doctor Sivana chases Billy Batson into a toy store, Billy unknowingly steps onto a Walking Piano and briefly plays it before being knocked out a window by Sivana. Additionally, both films' plots center around a child who is magically transformed into an adult.[54][55]

An Easter egg made an appearance in The Order season 2, episode 2, entitled "Free Radicals, Part 2." In the episode, Alyssa shows Jack (Jake Manley) their vault of magical artifacts, which is described by Alyssa as "the beating heart of the Order." This place has everything from Excalibur to the Ark of the Covenant. While there, a Zoltar fortune-telling machine from Big catches Jack's eye. Alyssa explains that it's an "enchanted" Zoltar machine that makes wishes come true. After Jack says he wishes to know his major, Alyssa quickly warns him that Zoltar is a "bit of a trickster" who "grants your wishes ironically." The machine, which is among the artifacts stolen by the demon summoned by the Knights of Saint Christopher, can be spotted in multiple episodes.[56]

In the 2023 film Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, the character Mirage references the movie in the line, "Big is just a movie, you'll never be a real boy!"

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "Big (1988)". The Numbers. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
  2. ^ "Tom Hanks Biography". (FYI / A&E Networks). Retrieved August 6, 2014.
  3. ^ "Cinema Italiano 2010: Master of Ceremonies and Jurors". Cinema Italiano in Hawaii. Archived from the original on December 27, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
  4. ^ Irazábal Martín, Concha (1996). Alice, Sí Está: Directoras de Cine Europeas y Norteamericanas 1896-1996 (in Spanish). Vol. 23 of Cuadernos inacabados. Madrid: Horas y Horas. ISBN 9788487715594.
  5. ^ "AFI|Catalog".
  6. ^ Getlen, Larry (December 8, 2013). "How Tom Hanks got 'Big' 25 years ago". New York Post.
  7. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (July 6, 1988). "Tom Hanks: From Leading Man to Movie Star". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "Penny Marshall Didn't Mean to Make History, She Just Did". December 18, 2018.
  9. ^ "Interview: Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg Discuss Bridge of Spies and Exclusive Clip". March 28, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c Yamato, Jen (September 18, 2012). "My Mother Was Nuts Book Excerpt: How Robert de Niro, Not Tom Hanks, Almost Starred in Penny Marshall's Big". Movieline. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  11. ^ Wilson, Chris (August 24, 2013). "Steve Guttenberg turns 55: 15 reasons why the Police Academy star is a cinematic treasure". Daily Mirror.
  12. ^ "Matthew Modine interview: 'America has never dealt honestly with what its history is'". February 22, 2021.
  13. ^ Mell, Eila (2005). Casting Might-Have-Beens: A Film by Film Directory of Actors Considered for Roles Given to Others. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 978-1-47660-976-8.
  14. ^ Evans, Bradford (June 30, 2011). "The Lost Roles of Albert Brooks".
  15. ^ "Big (1988)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films.
  16. ^ Cormier, Roger (June 3, 2015). "15 Huge Facts About Big". Mental Floss.
  17. ^ Longsdorf, Amy (June 5, 1988). "She Knows Give and Take of Direction". Morning Call.
  18. ^ Haring, Bruce (April 8, 2021). "Robert De Niro Was Originally Cast In 'Big' Instead Of Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins Claims". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  19. ^ Parker, Ryan (June 8, 2021). "Robert De Niro Explains Why He Dropped Out of the Lead in 'Big'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  20. ^ "The Heart and Soul of the 'Big' Piano". June 4, 2018.
  21. ^ "Robert Loggia". The A.V. Club. September 8, 2011.
  22. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (January 15, 1990). "The Media Business; Buchwald Ruling: Film Writers vs. Star Power". The New York Times. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  23. ^ Cormier, Roger (June 3, 2015). "15 Huge Facts About 'Big'". Mental Floss. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  24. ^ Easton, Nina (June 7, 1988). "Weekend Box Office: 'Big' Looks Like a Big Hit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 8, 2023.
  25. ^ "Big (1988)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  26. ^ Telling, Gillian (December 19, 2018). "Penny Marshall, Who Died at 75, Broke Barriers as a Female Director: A Look at Her Biggest Hits". People. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  27. ^ Maslin, Janet (June 3, 1988). "Review/Film; Tom Hanks as a 13-Year-Old, in 'Big'". The New York Times. p. C8. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  28. ^ Siskel, Gene (June 3, 1988). "Flick of the Week: Hanks Makes 'Big' Splash". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 8, 2023.
  29. ^ Ebert, Roger (1989). Roger Ebert's Movie Home Companion (1990 ed.). Andrews and McMeel. pp. 64–65. ISBN 978-0-517-05978-4.
  30. ^ Boyar, Jay (June 3, 1988). "Hanks Reverts To Child's Play In 'Big' Success". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved November 8, 2023.
  31. ^ Byrge, Duane (June 3, 2016) [June 3, 1988]. "'Big': THR's 1988 Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 8, 2023.
  32. ^ Thomas, Kevin (June 3, 1988). "Movie Review: 'Big' at Head of the Body-Exchange Class". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 8, 2023.
  33. ^ Simon, John (2005). John Simon on Film: Criticism 1982–2001. Applause Books. pp. 174–175. ISBN 978-1-557-83507-9.
  34. ^ "Big (1988)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 8, 2023.
  35. ^ "Big 1988". Metacritic.
  36. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Big" in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  37. ^ "The 61st Annual Oscar Awards". The Baltimore Sun. March 26, 1989. Retrieved March 30, 2021 – via
  38. ^ "Hollywood Foreign Press Lists Globe Nominations". Tyler Courier-Times. January 6, 1989. Retrieved March 30, 2021 – via
  39. ^ "Here are movie, TV award winners: "Actor - musical or comedy" Tom Hanks, Big". Asbury Park Press. Associated Press. January 30, 1989. Retrieved March 30, 2021 – via
  40. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. 2000. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 7, 2011. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  41. ^ "10 Top 10: Top 10 Fantasy". American Film Institute. 2008. Archived from the original on February 10, 2009. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  42. ^ "Empire's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time". December 5, 2006. Archived from the original on July 10, 2011. Retrieved June 22, 2012.
  43. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 26, 2017. Retrieved August 6, 2016.
  44. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10: Top 10 Fantasy". American Film Institute. Retrieved August 6, 2016.
  45. ^ "A Year of Inspirations". Idlebrain. December 29, 2004.
  46. ^ "Naani". Sify. May 17, 2004. Archived from the original on August 30, 2020.
  47. ^ "Review: AAO Wish Karein anything but a fairy tale". Sify. November 13, 2009. Archived from the original on December 17, 2019.
  48. ^ Winer, Lauren (April 29, 1996). "'Big' Has Growing Pains on Broadway". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 8, 2019.
  49. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (September 30, 2014). "'Big' Series In Works At Fox With 'Enlisted's Kevin Biegel & Mike Royce". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 3, 2015.
  50. ^ Kurtz, Bill (1994). Arcade Treasures: With Price Guide. Schiffer. p. 76. ISBN 0-88740-619-X.
  51. ^ "Zoltan Fortune Teller Machine Arcade". Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  52. ^ "U.S. Trademark Status serial number 76668678". USPTO. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  53. ^ Buchanan, Leigh (June 12, 2017). "Fortunetelling Can Be a Million-Dollar Business. Just Ask This Company". Inc. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  54. ^ Pham, Jason (April 11, 2019). "13 'Shazam!' Easter Eggs You Totally Missed in Your First Watch". StyleCaster.
  55. ^ Berger, Matt (April 16, 2019). "10 Movie References and Inspirations in Shazam!". Screen Rant.
  56. ^ Raymond, Nicholas (July 5, 2020). "The Order Season 2 Has A Big Movie Easter Egg". Screen Rant.

External links edit