For, Friday, April 12, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: ‘Little,’ the fantasy-comedy that opens this weekend is the second ripoff of ‘Big’ in as many weeks; ‘Shazam,’ anyone? Of course, I mean ‘ripoff’ in the nicest possible way. And it occurred to me that ‘Big’ is now 30 years old! Yikes. That could mean a generation or two hasn’t seen it, though they may have seen the more recent ‘Big’ wannabes. So here’s a recommendation: If you want to see a movie about a kid in an adult’s body (in ‘Little’ it’s the reverse, an adult in a kid’s body), check out the film that launched Tom Hanks into superstar status. Here’s my ‘Big’ review, published in the Deseret News on June 3, 1988.

“Big” is the fourth incarnation of the kid-in-an-adult-body plot we’ve had in less than a year — “Like Father Like Son,” “Vice Versa” and “18 Again!” have all been released since last October.

But if you didn’t see those — or if you saw them and didn’t particularly like them (only “Vice Versa” had enough humor to hold an audience very long) — you may get a kick out of “Big,” which proves to be not only funny but genuinely sweet and poignant.

Unfortunately, the sex angle is dealt with here, as it was in the other films, in a way that is less than tasteful, and one scene in particular may be enough to steer young ones in another direction, despite the PG rating.

The story focuses on a pre-adolescent boy (David Moscow) who is tired of being too small to stand up for himself. The final straw comes when he is humiliated at a carnival — standing in line with a girl he has a crush on, he is told he’s not tall enough to go on a ride.


                             David Moscow, 'Big'

Then Moscow spots a mysterious fortune-telling machine, which works even though it’s not plugged in, and he makes a wish — to be “big.” The next morning he wakes up as Tom Hanks. But it’s only his body that has grown. He’s still an immature 12-year-old in his mind.

Needless to say he’s rather shocked, so he runs away from home and tries to make some sense of it with help from his best friend (Jared Rushton). Soon, through a series of misadventures, he finds himself an executive in a toy manufacturing company — the perfect job for someone who is still childlike. There he meets cynical Elizabeth Perkins and soon melts her with his genuineness.

“Big” is an affecting, very funny movie with many memorable scenes — the party where Hanks wears an outlandish tux, Hanks and Robert Loggia dancing on a computerized piano, Hanks nostalgically observing his old haunts and realizing that he misses being a child.

Director Penny Marshall (she used to be the first half of TV’s “Laverne and Shirley”), for her second feature (after “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”) has taken a low-key innocent approach to the first-time script by Anne Spielberg (Steven’s sister) and Gary Ross. The result is a textured, three-dimensional film that is quite different from the others of this genre, all of which have merely tried for wacky slapstick.


                      Marsai Martin, 'Little'

But the glue that holds “Big” together is the superlative performance by Tom Hanks. In his other films Hanks has always been appealing and charming and funny, but there hasn’t been much to distinguish him from the Bill Murray-Steve Guttenberg-Chevy Chase school of smart-alecky one-liner delivery that has been a staple of film comedies in recent years. With “Big,” however, Hanks proves himself to be quite adept at subtlety and nuance, and his treatment of this character as an innocent child with an incredible sense of wonder gives this picture an enormous boost.

There is a serious problem with a subplot here. Marshall and her writers never come to grips with how to deal with Hanks’ grieving mother, who thinks her son has been kidnapped. This element is extremely distasteful and never adequately resolved. Also unresolved is the boardroom climax where Hanks’ design of a toy is being considered — that aspect is left dangling as Hanks simply walks away.

And, unable to avoid the question of whether a 13-year-old boy (he has a birthday in the picture) in a man’s body wouldn’t welcome being seduced by a beautiful woman, there is a scene that implies a sexual liaison between Hanks and Perkins. (There is also the use of “The Eddie Murphy Word,” which supposedly nets an automatic PG-13 — though this movie is rated PG.)

Parents should be advised that this isn’t particularly a film for young children.