Everybody likes Big. Even now. Unlike a lot of 80s nostalgia, which hasn’t aged well at all and makes us wonder just how we ever enjoyed it in the first place, Big has stood the test of time quite solidly, certainly better than any of the “body swap” comedies that came out around the same time such as Vice Versa or Like Father, Like Son. It’s hard to say exactly what sets it apart from those others, though it’s probably due to a script that’s smarter than it gets credit for and the appeal of the central performance.

It was a real breakthrough for Tom Hanks, who by that point was a bankable star but only really because of a string of dumb comedies, and hardly respected much as a thespian. He took what had already stood him in good stead – a kind of “nice guy” appeal that’s hard to fake and even harder to dislike – and by showing a little restraint and subtlety took what could have been a truly cringeworthy role (imagine what the OTT likes of Adam Sandler or Andy Samberg would have churned out with it today) and – without sacrificing the inherent comedy and silliness – made audiences¬†care as well as laugh, essentially launching a career that has never looked back.

He’s helped by one of those old-fashioned, neatly-crafted scripts that ticks boxes in that “safe” Hollywood way that many people despise, but functions perfectly for what is a rather sweet and innocent fantasy at heart. There are moments when it flirts with quite dark subject matter (Hanks fondling a grown woman’s breasts flirts closely to paedophilia if you take it seriously enough), but generally speaking this is a film that takes the simple premise of how we kid ourselves that being older is better, and when we’re older we kid ourselves that being a kid was great. Nostalgia is a two-way street, going backwards and forwards in time, and just as much of an illusion either way.

Some 80s nostalgia that it isn't embarrassing to admit that you liked8
Tom Hanks coming of age onscreen and as a movie star10
Unashamedly optimistic and positive and sweet8
A clever script that maybe doesn't explore its darker side enough7
Hollywood formula all the way otherwise4
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
Bechdel Test Failures
  • None of the female characters talk to each other
7Overall Score

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.