Big [Blu-Ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (16th June 2009).
The Film

More than 20 years after Tom Hanks added dramatic acting roles into his typical routine of straight up comedy, it’s a bit odd to look at his performance between his years in “Bosom Buddies” (1980-1982) and “Bachelor Party” (1984) all the way into his great dramatic performances in “Philadelphia” (1993) and “Forrest Gump” (1994) that earned him back to back Oscar wins. I know what you’re thinking, wait haven’t I read a sentence very much like this before? Then thanks for reading all of my reviews, that’s dedication. But for most of you it seems new even though I copied it from my review of “The Truman Show” (1998) out of a mix of vanity and writers block, though mostly to show how incredibly similar the career path of Jim Carrey tried to follow Tom Hanks, making a critically acclaimed turn for the dramatic with “The Truman Show” just like Hanks got his foot into the Oscar buzz realm with “Big.” Both are dramadies with a slant towards the comedic, mixing in a little bit of science fiction and fantasy into their weird worlds, though the ending of "Big" is far more definitive and comedic than the open ended, and slightly haunting, ending of “The Truman Show.”

Hanks plays Josh Baskin (David Moscow), a thirteen year old boy who has fallen hard for one of the girls in his class, going speechless when she even gives him a wave 'hi.' At the town carnival that night, he sees his chance to get close by going on a roller coaster with her, only to find that he’s too short to ride the ride. Embarassed, Josh makes a wish to his local Zoltar machine, asking to be big. The next morning he wakes up in the body of an older version of himself (Tom Hanks) forcing him out of his home as his mom freaks out at the strange man in her house. Josh runs to enlist the help of his best friend Billy (Jared Rushton), who believes the weird transformation and helps Josh find a cheap motel room in New York along with a job working with computers while they try to find the Zoltar machine to reverse the change. However Josh’s change soon turns to his favor as his love of toys and playing draws the attention of MacMillan Toy Company CEO MacMillan (Robert Loggia), pushing him to the top of the yuppie tower as vice president of product development.

As Hanks’ first Oscar nomination among many, “Big” proved to be a role that would define Hanks’ style of charm, something you can see come through in “Forrest Gump” though with less wonder and more bluntness. Moving from scared kid in a big body to happy kid in a big body to regretful kid in a big body is done seamlessly and effectively as you can see and understand how he gets where he’s going in every part of the film. There are some bizarre sequences, like thinking too hard about the implied sex scene between him and Elizabeth Perkins, but it helps to add to the texture of the film, more than just fish out of water laughs or Hanks’ great job of imitating the childishness of a 13 year old. The biggest surprise to me is that Jared Rushton doesn’t get more credit for being able to play against Hanks in the film without it looking weird or giving me the ‘child actor shivers’ like Jake Lloyd or Spencer Allyn. He’s obviously convincing as a kid, but plays up the odd streetwise friend who doesn’t have a family and only seems to hang out at Josh’s house without question or a problem (even providing more of a draw for Hanks than the potential of romantic life with Susan).

Unlike “The Truman Show” though I’m not as inclined to instantly praise the directing or writing, even though the more I think about it, the more perfect they are for the film. The directing by Penny Marshall, the script by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg and Barry Sonnenfeld’s cinematography all blend together to be perfect for what the film is intended to accomplish. All of the coverage fits the scene just perfectly, there are no awkward cuts or intrusive lines, but everything flows together to show off Hanks’ acting without overdoing it. It’s not the sort of production style that will win awards or create buzz about a film just because of this team, but they execute in the exact ways they need to for the film they’re making.

Overall, “Big” is a good comedy, with some great acting by Hanks and some good supporting performances to make a fine film that doesn’t really blow you away the first time you see it, but will get better with progressive viewings. It’s got the scenes that have become iconic, such as the piano dancing with Loggia and Hanks or the Zoltar machine itself, along with a solid plot and story to keep it through the entire time, and keep it more than entertaining on repeat viewings.

The disc includes both the "Theatrical Cut" and "Extended Cut," which run 1 hour and 44 minutes and 2 hours and 10 minutes respectively.

Video

Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen high-definition 1080p 24/fps with AVC MPEG-4 encoding at 24 mbps, the film itself is well preserved and transferred to this disc. It keeps the texture of an older film from the 80’s without letting the grain get annoying or wash out the colors during the film. Of course it’s not crystal clear like modern films, but has a fine older transfer that could be pushed to the next level with a little more polish as some of the colors can pop while the contrast can make some of the colors blend a bit at times.

Audio

Audio tracks included here are in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mixed at 48kHz/24-bit as well as English, French, Portuguese and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. The DTS-HD track of the film does a good service to one of Howard Shore’s first non-David Cronenberg scores, that helps to capture the mood of the film in each scene and sounds good coming through the 5.1 DTS-HD sound track. All of the sound effects and music work well with the dialogue and levels to create a solid audio track, though most of the credit has to come to the work with the famous piano sequence that makes all of the sounds clearer than I’ve seen previously.
Optional subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese and Portuguese.

Extras

The Blu-Ray edition of “Big” brings nothing new and simply carries over the special features from the 2-Disc 'Extended Edition' that was released 2 years ago, with the commentary/“Audio Documentary” track, five featurettes, eight deleted scenes, theatrical trailers and TV spots (though with none of the bonus trailers, which is honestly a big plus).

“Big Brainstorming: Audio Documentary” acts as an audio commentary track with a twist and is only available on the "Theatrical Cut" version of the film. Hosted by the disc producder Pete Venterella the commentary/documentary features screenwriters Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg who start out with a discussion of production the film and then cut in to the audio tapes made before the production of the film. It’s a cool look of just a discussion session that builds into a film, how the film can change from there on in. The rest of the track follows the same format, splitting time between the brainstorming tapes and comments on the film itself, though they aren’t really scene specific.

Next are the deleted scenes, with optional introductions from director Penny Marshall on a few select scenes, they are mostly self descriptive:

- “Billy’s Home Life” runs for 1 minute and 8 seconds seconds, this has an introduction by director Penny Marshall.
- “Susan Interrupts Wedding Shower” runs for 2 minutes and 26 seconds, with introduction by director Penny Marshall.
- “Josh Calls His Mom” runs for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, with introduction by director Penny Marshall.
- “Susan and Paul Having Breakfast” runs for 48 seconds.
- “Josh and Billy Pick Up the Tuxedo” runs for 1 minute and 36 seconds, with introduction by director Penny Marshall.
- “Quacky Duck” runs for 3 minutes and 3 seconds, with introduction by director Penny Marshall.
- “Josh and Susan Work Late” runs for 1 minute and 42 seconds.
- “Sequence of Events after Josh and Susan Fight” runs for 2 minutes and 48 seconds.

“‘Big’ Beginnings” runs for 16 minutes and 29 seconds. This first featurette looks at some of the same points of the "audio documentary" in covering the origins of “Big” through the tape recorder sessions, pitching the movie to studios, writing the movie and putting it together in script form. There’s some interesting discussion of how they put the jokes together and seeing everything come together in interview form, though I found the actual tapes during the film a bit more interesting to the production side, this also brings in producer James L. Brooks to bring in some extra stories about the film which is a nice touch to shake up the discussion.

“Chemistry of a Classic” featurette runs for 23 minutes and 45 seconds, and uses good behind-the-scenes footage and looks at the film to supplement interviews with producers and actors. It’s always good when they are able to bring back in actors now, in order to get a retrospective, bringing in Robert Loggia, Penny Marshall, Jared Rushton and other major players associated with the film to talk about their involvement in the film. It’s of course noticeably lacking Tom Hanks, but it’s somewhat understandable considering how much bigger he got than everyone else associated with the movie (except for maybe Sonnenfeld, who also doesn’t show up).

“The Work of Play” runs for 9 minutes and 54 seconds. This featurette looks at people who have the job that Tom Hanks had in “Big,” basically showing a large group of adults who have a job to play, test and develop toys for a living. It makes the job a bit more enviable, but it’s cool to see how they perform the same sort of job in real life. A nice featurette that’s tangentially connected to the film, but still cool to see.

“Hollywood Backstory: ‘Big’” featurette runs for 21 minutes and 15 seconds (labeled on the packaging as AMC Backstory: “Big” works as backup making of for the film, but more dramatized for television since it looks like it was just an episode of “Hollywood Backstories” made around “Big.” It’s not a bad making of, and actually runs a bit longer than the ‘Beginnings’ featurette, but the narrator and the filters they apply to some of the interviews makes it a bit more frustrating to watch, and also noticeably lacks Tom Hanks in more recent interviews, instead opting for archival footage.

“Carnival Party Newswrap” runs for 1 minute and 32 seconds. This final featurette reeks of VHS quality video, briefly covering the opening night of “Big” that featured carnival events and all the different celebrities that attended the carnival night.

Next are the trailers and TV spots:

- Theatrical trailer A runs 1 minute and 16 seconds.
- Theatrical trailer B runs 2 minutes and 25 seconds.
- TV spot – “Women” runs for 32 seconds.
- TV spot – “Adult Review” runs for 32 seconds.

Overall

The Film: A- Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: B+ Overall: B+