Classic tv & film retrospectives

by Alastair McFly


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Have you ever had a really big secret?

Watching Big these days is a hilarious and wonderful, yet sorrowful experience, because I know that I'll never be able to watch the same movie that I did when I was as a kid.

You see, the story of Big changes depending on what point in your life you watch it, and that's one of the reasons that I think that it is absolutely and utterly brilliant. It gives so many things for kids and grown-ups to relate to in a way that these days, very few studios beyond Pixar are capable of.

Big is the story of Josh Baskin; a twelve year old who's interested in a girl but his short stature doesn't make him endearing enough to win her over, nor does it allow him to meet the minimum height requirement to go on the carnival ride he hopes to impress her on. So upon finding a mysterious fortune teller machine called Zoltar, he wishes he were big.

Josh wakes up the next day, much to his surprise, as a fully-grown 30-year-old man. He has to escape the wrath of his mother who thinks he's a child abductor and convince his best friend that he is the boy he says he is.


Up until this point, it's kind of the same movie for everyone. Children can relate to Josh quite easily, as children are often told that they're too young or too small to do all the fun stuff. Adults will also remember those days, especially those of us who are short in stature and remember growing up with the challenges we faced as a result.

But once Josh has turned into an adult, this is where the movie splits. 

Through the eyes of a child, the movie is about a boy in a man's body who suddenly gets to do everything that being a child restricts you of. He doesn't have to deal with his embarrassing parents in public. He manages to land himself a job where he's paid to play with toys all day. He earns a paycheque, allowing him to afford a massive apartment and fill it with amazing things like vending machines, a bunk bed, a pinball machine, a giant inflatable Godzilla, and of course - my favourite - the trampoline. He gets to ride in limos, save a woman called Susan from boring parties, a boring jerk, and even gets her to stay for a sleepover. However, his new adult life starts to separate him from his friend Billy, who feels neglected, forcing Josh to consider their friendship together and the importance being a kid.

Younger viewers see everything from Josh's perspective, but as an adult you see Josh from Susan's perspective. And that's all thanks to the perfect balance of the writing, directing, acting, and the fun levels of innuendo that blow right over kid's heads.

As an adult, the movie is seen through the eyes of Susan; a female executive at a toy firm with a boyfriend and life that no-longer excites her. She feels vulnerable and despite loving her job, has become bored of the same people and the same conversations. That is until she meets Josh - a new starter at the firm she works at. She discovers how intriguing, fun and unique Josh is and a romance begins to blossom between them.  He reminds her that life doesn't have to be boring and she becomes endeared to him, much to the frustration of her boyfriend, Paul.

It became their goal to do the entire keyboard number without the aid of their doubles. They succeeded, resulting in a genuine and brilliant scene.

But this is the thing; when you watch the movie as a grown-up, you realize just how much innuendo was infused into the narrative all along. Susan is obviously both romantically and sexually attracted to Josh but for the most part, Josh is very innocent, leading to hilariously iconic lines like "Okay. But I get to be on top!". It completely flew over my head when I was younger that Susan is basically entering into a relationship with a minor whilst Josh is discovering that he has a thing for older women.

There's also a scene when Billy sees big-Josh for the first time and there's a bit of a 'stranger-danger' panic that sets in. It wasn't until I was older that I realized just how scary a situation that would have realistically been for Billy.

I think that the most iconic scene from the whole movie is probably the one where Josh is in the toy store and playing a floor piano with his boss. The two actors had noticed that there were body doubles dressed like them on standby just incase they couldn't play it correctly. It became their goal to do the entire keyboard number without the aid of their doubles. They succeeded, resulting in a genuine and brilliant scene that has stuck with me for years. That toy store itself was also memorable, but that light-up piano was something else. To this day, I still want to play chopsticks on one. 

My feet were growing much faster than the rest of my body, so I had this very strange walk. Also I was wearing Converse at the time, and Converse are like a size bigger than normal shoes, so I would walk almost like this duck walk. There was this weird-kid duck walk, and [Hanks] asked for larger shoes so he could imitate that walk. So in the movie, he’s kind of flopping around in these shoes.
— David Moscow (Young Josh)

The performances from the cast were outstanding, most of all Tom Hanks. David Moscow (who played young Josh) played all of Tom's scenes as himself, which Tom then mimicked perfectly, capturing all of David's behaviour and mannerisms.

Interestingly, when David moved to L.A., Jared Rushton (who plays his friend Billy) was the only person he knew out there. So people would get kicks seeing the two kids from Big hanging out as genuine best friends. I know my mind would have been blown seeing that.

If you haven't seen it since you were younger then you really should, because your older, dirtier mind is going to ensure that you're in for a treat.

When the movie came out I really really wanted to be big too. I wanted his apartment, filled with all those amazing things. I wanted an assistant who could tape my favourite stuff and edit out all the commercials. I wanted to be paid to play with toys and ride in a limo all over the city.

Not long after I moved to Canada, I moved into an apartment. And I won't lie; part of the appeal was an innate childhood desire to live in an apartment building like in this movie. But sadly, whilst the windows are big and I get a great view of the city, it is not big enough for a trampoline. Maybe one day...

I also really wanted to play Cavern of the Evil Wizard, the video game that appeared in the film. But a few years ago I discovered that it was all fictional and had been made exclusively for the movie. Which, despite being disappointing, is also actually pretty neat when you think about it. But to my dear surprise, I also discovered that someone had made a working copy of the game available online. Although it requires Adobe's Flash Player, it is a bloody faithful reproduction of what we saw in the movie. 

Cavern of the Evil Wizard  (requires Flash)

Cavern of the Evil Wizard (requires Flash)

Big honestly is a wonderful movie, and if you haven't seen it since you were younger then you really should, because your older, dirtier mind is going to ensure that you're in for a treat. The innuendo is great and the film really does bring home the memories of childhood and the importance of having fun.

But as I said at the beginning of this article, I feel somewhat sorrowful that there's a memory of this movie that I have in my head that I'll never be able to experience again. Not that it's a bad thing in the slightest, but it's interesting how losing ones innocence as we get older really changes your perspective on things. 

And I've often wondered; if I were to ever see a Zoltar machine, what is it that I would wish for?

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