Monday, June 30, 2014

Big: 25th Anniversary Extended Edition Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks received his first Best Actor Nomination for his disarming turn as a 12-year-old man-child in Penny Marshall’s timeless and funny delight. Tired of being a kid, Josh Baskin wishes he was big. When he wakes up the next day, he’s an adult! Now, Josh must hold down a job – and please a new boss (Robert Loggia). Tougher still, he must convince his best friend that he’s still himself, and explain to a beautiful woman (Elizabeth Perkins) who falls for him, that he’s not. Soon, Josh just wants to be a kid again, but can he? As exhilarating as it was during its acclaimed debut, the classic film Big is now available as a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack!

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
At some point or another, I think that we've all wished that we were bigger, stronger, or older especially when we were kids. Wish fulfillment is something we all yearn for and understand which is why Big works on so many levels. Unlike all of the other body swapping movies that were the rage when this movie was released, Big keeps it simple by allowing the boy to become a man through magic. Because of that, we get so see a young boy actually get his wish and then see the consequences (both good and bad) that take place because of it. That young boy is a twelve year old named Josh Baskin whose infatuation with an older girl keeps getting him in embarrassing situations. His attempt to impress her by joining her in line to ride a roller coaster and a local  fair ends with him being turned away for being too short to ride it. Shamed and angry, Josh wanders the fairground until he finds an arcade fortune teller machine called Zoltar Speaks. Josh makes a wish to be "big" and the machine issues a card telling him that his wish is granted even though as far as he can tell nothing happened.

That all changes the next morning when he wakes up and discovers that he is now a man in his thirties who looks just like Tom Hanks. He understandably freaks out which gets worse when he mother mistakes him for an intruder who kidnapped her son. Josh escapes his house and quickly returns to the fairground only to discover an empty field as the fair (and Zoltar) have moved on. Uncertain on what to do, Josh seeks out his best friend Billy and convinces him that he is the older version of Josh.  Together, they learn that it's going to take awhile to track down a Zoltar machine so Josh rents a room in New York City and gets a job as a data entry clerk at the MacMillan Toy Company. It's at that company where he meets the overly ambitious executive Paul (John Heard) and Susan (Elizabeth Perkins) who had a past relationship that causes friction between them. Both of them want nothing more than to advance in the company and their plans are thrown into disarray when Josh happens to meet the owner of the toy company while playing at F.A.O. Schwartz. Mr. MacMillan loves toys as much as Josh and he recognizes a kindred spirit and they become friends.  Josh even gets a major promotion once his ideas for toys turn out to be just what the company needed.

Life is good for Josh as he has everything that he always wanted, especially once his naivete captures the affection of Susan who becomes his girlfriend.  He's got an awesome loft, a lot of money, a girlfriend, and a job doing what he dreamed of and the draw of those things has pulled him away from his family and his best friend.  And that's what makes this movie such a clever concept. Josh gets everything he wants but then learns to be careful for what you wish for. Even though Robert DeNiro was a contender for the role of the adult Josh, I can't image anyone doing this role better than Tom Hanks.  He's entirely believable as a twelve year old trapped in a thirty year old man's body and he balances the humor and the drama perfectly. The supporting cast is also great with John Heard as a slimy executive, Elizabeth Perkins turning in a multi-faceted performance as the damaged Sue, and Robert Loggia as the genial toy maker.  

Even though this film has a ton of plot holes and has some questionable concepts (like the fact that a woman mistakenly had sex with a twelve year old boy), the charm of the movie and its cast helps you overlook those issues. Director Penny Marshall also keeps things moving too and offers enough fun scenes like the duet on a giant keyboard that viewers get swept up into the movie. Big has a lot of heart and laughs and they go a long way to help you forget any niggling issues you might have. It's also smart enough to let you have your cake and eat it too as we get to join in on the fun when Josh is a kid, but it also shows the adult side of the equation that comes with adult pleasures and responsibilities which is why the film is still and always will be relevant.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer looks pretty good as it offers some nice detail but there's also some soft looking shots that  pop up here and there. Colors look nice and distinctive, especially in the F.A.O. Schwartz store with all of the multi-hued toys. Detail is decent but greatly improves in closeups where it looks a lot sharper. Black levels are decent but not as inky as I would have liked. This is a clean looking transfer that isn't marred by digital defects or any egregious print damage. It looks a lot better than the previous DVD release.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Big's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is much better than you'd expect for a comedy film. I was really surprised at how immersive it is, especially during the carnival scenes that really come to life with some impressive cross channel surround activity. Dialogue is clear and the music also well represented in this lossless mix. 
Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
This new Extended Edition offers an additional twenty-five minutes of the film that was previously cut for fans of the movie. Most of this footage is focused on providing more character background but it does kind of slow the film down. I'm on the fence on whether or not it should be included as I like the extra character info but a comedy should be as lean as possible. The only new extra on this set is the new Extended Cut of the film. The rest of the extras have been ported over from the previous release. They include:
  • Big Brainstorming - An Audio Documentary by Gary Ross and Annie Spielberg - Instead of just recording their thoughts as the film plays, this commentary track is something new and different as it is made up of archival recordings of the two writers working on the screenplay back when they were writing it. It's a novel idea and one that I don't think has ever been done before and it's a feature that I'd love to see on other releases along with a traditional commentary track. Listening to the choices they made back then offers a fascinating look behind the scenes at how a screenplay is created. 
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Intros by Penny Marshall - Director Penny Marshall intos each deleted scene if you'd like to hear from her on why they were cut.
  • "Big" Beginnings - If you liked the commentary track and would like to hear more from writers Annie Spielberg and Gary Ross, this sixteen minute talk with them about the film will give you even more information..
  • Chemistry of a Classic - A twenty-four minute featurette focused on the film's cast and why it was so important to the movie that it was done right. 
  • The Work of Play - Here's a look at all of the toys that can be found in the film.
  • Hollywood Backstory: Big - This is a twenty minute look at the film's background and how it came to be. We also get to see some of the behind the scenes shooting as well. 
  • Carnival Party Newswrap
  • Trailers and TV Spots
  • DVD of the film (Theatrical Cut) 
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
Big is a fun movie that is powered by Tom Hanks' fantastic performance. It has a lot of plot holes and some questionable bits, but it is a nice escapist fantasy. The Blu-ray delivers excellent video and audio quality and the extras aren't too bad either. If you already own the previous version, you will just need to decide if it's worth upgrading to this new Extended Edition based solely on the added footage. If you haven't bought Big yet, then this is an easy choice for you. 

Order your copy today!

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