Big Penny Marshall

Big Penny Marshall
This film about a young boy named Josh who wishes he was "big” (then magically is) was actually sat on for months while similarly plotted duds of age reversal like 18 Again and Like Father Like Son were released. Vice Versa is included on that list but that movie definitely had its moments. The reason why second-time director Penny Marshall held out for so long was to clear up Tom Hank’s schedule and it’s a good thing she did because not only did he get an Oscar nomination out of it but it allowed Hanks to almost single-handedly make this movie great. Listening to writers Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg go on about the idea for Big in one of the many featurettes, you get the sense they provided the blueprint for Marshall and Hanks to make something more substantial, as the majority of the classic moments — the piano scene, silly string, tuxedo party — came from the improvisation and talents of the lead and director. And watching all the added scenes in this extended cut, you notice that a lot of character building moments (such as a heartfelt call from adult Josh to his mother from his dodgy New York apartment) were chopped. Big is easily one of Hanks’s best films, especially since the aging actor lost his sense of humour after he won an Academy Award, but it does suffer from the fact that it was made in 1988. The style then was often cheesy but there are enough signs of great comedy and touching struggles of sudden adulthood to make Big a classic. The DVD provides a few short documentaries about the "making of” the film, some with just talking heads but a couple reveal interesting "behind the scene” outtakes, as well as weird facts, such as Robert DeNiro actually doing a screen test for the lead of Josh. Can you imagine? There’s also a segment on toy makers (the job adult Josh takes on) that talks to overly happy people who get to play with toys every day for a living, but everyone sort of comes off as smug and, let’s face it, toys just aren’t as cool as they were back in 1988. The largest omission on this DVD has to be the mystery alternate ending that seems only to wind up on New Zealand VHS copies where Josh’s love interest, Susan, returns as a little girl after wishing she were young again. With no mention of it anywhere on this release, they probably don’t want you to know about that. (Fox)