Freeview film of the day: Big

Tom Hanks plays it young in this sweet and funny wish-fulfilment comedy

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Big ★★★★ 
5.05-7.10pm Film4

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Young David Moscow doesn’t want to be grown-up – he just wants to be big. Unfortunately, the wish in which he expresses this desire is misinterpreted and, overnight, 12-year-old Moscow wakes up in the body of 30-year-old Tom Hanks.

Now this is awkward. Naturally enough Moscow/Hanks’s mum doesn’t recognise this stranger and indeed thinks he is a kidnapper who has snatched her little boy. So there is only one thing for the man-child to do – run away. Which he does, accompanied by the one person who believes he is who he says he is, his 12-year-old friend Jared Rushton. 

What happens next may not be entirely logical but it is highly entertaining. In New York’s famous toy shop FAO Schwarz, he meets Robert Loggia, the boss of a multimillion-dollar toy business, and so impresses him with his knowledge of and enthusiasm for toys, that he is offered an executive job. Privately, he and Rushton hang out as children in a posh pad; professionally Hanks is an immediate success at devising exciting new toys because,after all, he’s only 12 and much more in tune with the market than the adults around him. 

But success does not come unaccompanied. Among other things, Hanks arouses the enmity of rival executive John Heard and, more surprisingly, the amorous intentions of ambitious office siren Elizabeth Perkins. 

In the wrong hands, this situation would have been unbelievable and embarrassing. What could this smart young woman, who has clearly been around the block several times, see in a boy in a man’s body? 

Thankfully, however, director Penny Marshall and the writers, Gary Ross and Anne (sister of Steven) Spielberg, take the right, delicate approach to this and the fantastical set-up, generally. 

It’s a sentimental yarn certainly but not overly so, and it’s fast and funny and, at times, very touching. The performances, especially by Hanks, are first-rate and when the film was released in 1988 critics said it established Hanks as the screen’s foremost light comedian.

Not perhaps how one would describe him now when he’s better known for more serious roles, often as an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances. Mind you, Big rather presages this because here he’s an ordinary boy in extraordinary circumstances.


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