I had no idea that I’d be spending time on a Friday night discussing a 24-year-old movie, but here I am about to throw down some virtual ink in regards to the 1988 Penny Marshall-directed film BIG. Having inexplicably injured my back earlier this week and visiting a Chiropractor for the first time (cue PANTERA’s I’m Broken), I’ve spent more time on the couch in the past three days than I’ve probably spent sitting in the past three months.
Around 5pm, the little one grew tired of whatever was on Sprout (might’ve been the Sprout Sharing Show) and said ”Daddy, I need a new movie.” Not keen on getting up, I hit the ”On-Demand” button and zeroed in on the classic film. Sure, I own the 2007 ”Extended Edition’‘ on DVD, but the instant play was at my fingertips. For whatever reason, BIG officially became the first live-action movie to hold my 31-month-old’s attention.
This being the first time that I’ve viewed the film in it’s entirety since becoming a parent, a lot of things struck me differently this time around.
While BIG is rated PG and not necessarily “age appropriate” for a toddler, there’s still a lot there to capture attention. I’m sure my daughter noticed a lot of similarities between Hanks as the “big” version of young Josh Baskin and myself – a grown man surrounded by toys, and certainly having no problem playing with them all. The famous FAO SCHWARZ piano scene was of instant appeal, immediately provoking the little one to compare the on-screen floor piano to her little FIRST ACT Piano. Cute as those moments may have been, I cringed a little bit when a few naughty words made their way into the mix – especially when Baskin’s buddy Billy blurts out the “F-word.” My daughter offers instant playback at times, but fortunately not during BIG.
Another noticeable feature of BIG that I’d long overlooked is how much Elizabeth Perkins’ Susan character smoked. Having just cleared one-year smoke-free myself, I’m trying to keep the influence away from the offspring, and while the 80’s were a notoriously different time, it’s remarkable how much the smoking plays into the film. It’s just there all the time. In the office – at a party – at the breakfast table – there’s even a moment where James Eckhouse (best-known as Jim Walsh on BEVERLY HILLS 90210) pops up for a scene and asks Hanks if he smokes, followed by a quick run-down of where it’s allowed in their office.
Beyond those surface issues, I could help but think how BIG would be different if it was made today. In fact, it could be remade as a terrifying thriller, or you could do a parallel story as a crime drama following the painful ordeal of Mrs. Baskin (Mercedes Ruehl) in the wake of her son’s assumed abduction. I’ve always been a little miffed that there’s really no time spent on showing how easily a 12-year-old just disappears while his best friend (who should be the person the cops are looking at the most) is able to travel back and forth to New York City to hang out with a mysterious man who seemingly just appeared. And of course it never occurred to Susan that the “MISSING” kid on her carton of milk just happened to have the same name as the guy she was falling for at work. Though we only saw the carton in one scene at the breakfast table, you’d think she would’ve noticed at least once while purchasing it or getting it in and out of the fridge. Or why weren’t there police sketches of Hanks plastered all over town, seeing as the “big” Baskin did confront his mother?
Then there’s also the weird implications of a 12-year-old having sexual relations with a woman in the 30-range (something else that was “big?)…
But then again, this is a movie based upon the premise that a coin-operated game at a carnival can grant wishes.
Over-analyzing a beloved family film that was nominated for two Academy Awards? Probably. But it’s still interesting how you start to see things differently once you’ve become a parent yourself.