DVD Review: Big - The Extended Cut (Two-Disc Special Edition)
By Jeff Swindoll May 8, 2007, 15:27 GMT
At a carnival, young Josh Baskin (Hanks) wishes he was big ? only to awake the next morning and discover he is! With the help of his friend Billy, Josh lands a job at a toy company. But the more he experiences being an adult, the more Josh longs for the simple joys of childhood ...more
“I wish I were big.”
Tom Hanks classic 80s comedy gets bigger on DVD, but it doesn’t jettison the original that we’ve come to know and love. To make matters better there are some nice special features produced for this dip, but Tom Hanks is nowhere to be found sadly.
Josh Baskin (David Moscow) is a thirteen-year-old boy at the carnival with his family (Mercedes Ruehl and Josh Clark). As all boys his age do, he tries to impress a girl. However, his short stature keeps him off of a carnival ride and he has to skulk away in shame. He happens upon a creepy, mechanical arcade game called “Zoltar Speaks.” He makes a wish to be big. He awakes the next day and finds that he’s grown into Tom Hanks. He goes downstairs to his mom, but all she sees is a strange adult and chases him away with a butcher knife. He goes to the fairground, but the carnival has packed up shop and moved on.
Now he has to convince his best friend Billy (Jared Rushton) to help him find another Zoltar machine to try and wish himself back to his true age. They head to the big apple to find a list of traveling carnivals and amusement centers to try and find another Zoltar machine and Josh is soon on his own and having to get a job to make ends meet. He gets into the computer department at MacMillan Toys and a chance tinkling of the ivories with the head honcho (Robert Loggia) both gets Josh on the fast track and creates one of the most recognizable bits of film from the 80s. Soon he’s got a love interest, Susan (Elizabeth Perkins), a rival in the boardroom, Paul (John Heard), but Josh’s fast forward into adulthood soon begins to turn out not to be the solution that he imagined.
Simply put, Big is one of the classic films of the 80s and earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in Big. This might’ve also began his movement towards dramatic acting that would eventually lead to his Oscars wins for best actor for Philadelphia (1993) and Forest Gump (1994).
Big was not guaranteed success and several projects had beaten it to the big screen that had similar storylines. However, it’s the fantastic performance of Tom Hanks that keep it on the top list of films of the 80s. I’m sure that the delightful dancing scene with Loggia and Hanks has something to do with it as well. The only thing that might be dated is the computer technology (remember five and a quarter floppy discs?), but the themes used in the film are timeless. Hanks’ everyman quality is sometimes compared to Jimmy Stewart (he was even photographed with the legendary actor in a Life Magazine spread) and if so then Big is Hanks’ It’s a Wonderful Life.
When I first heard about this extended cut, I was a bit troubled. My thoughts were that a new cut was going to be made of the film and it would, in a way, replace the film that we’ve grown to know and love. Well, I should’ve belayed my fears since this new edition in no way is meant to replace the original just to offer an extension of it. When I heard of it, my thoughts were that the original theatrical cut wouldn’t be appearing on the disc.
Happily I was proven wrong since the two-disc set offers both cuts of the film. The extended cut does have some good additions (the adult Josh calling his mother in the seedy hotel hallway, MacMillan walking like a duck and a bonding moment between the two) but others, though nice to see, are not really needed (we get to see some of Billy’s home life).
The new additions make the film over two hours and it just feels too long (theatrical cut – 105 minutes, extended cut – 130 minutes). The theatrical cut distilled the film down to it’s essence and is the one that I still prefer although I do appreciate them doing something different for the DVD but I doubt that I’ll watch the extended cut again since the scenes exist elsewhere on the disc (more on that in the breakdown of special features on disc two).
Big is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Special features on disc one include the two cuts of the film and an audio documentary. What the audio documentary is a chat with DVD producer Peter Ventrella and writers Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg.
This feature is only on the theatrical cut of the film. They also let us hear some audiotapes of their sessions while they were writing the project, so it’s not an audio commentary but an audio documentary about the genesis of the film. Very interesting.
Disc two starts off with a series of featurettes. I should note up front that Tom Hanks adds no new interviews to these and all his input is from vintage footage. The first featurette is the 16 minute “Big Beginnings: the Writers will Reveal their Secrets” in which Ross and Spielberg discuss the project and are joined by producer James L. Brooks in the second portion of the featurette. Next is the 23 minute “Chemistry of a Classic” and features interviews with producer Robert Greenhut, Ross, director Penny Marshall, casting director Juliet Taylor, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, casting director Paula Herold, David Moscow (who now looks nothing like Tom Hanks), Jared Rushton, Spielberg, and Brooks.
Next is the 9-minute “The Work of Play” that interviews people about working in the toy industry. They include Lily Martinez (Design manager for My Scene Barbie, Mattel, Inc.), Kate Scott (Research moderator, Wild Planet Toys), Geoff Walker (V.P. of marketing for Hot Wheels, Mattel, Inc.), Tim Thompson (V.P. of marketing, Imperial Toy), Peter Tiger (President, Imperial Toy), Art Hirsch (President, Imperial Toy), Tyler Russell (Product design, Imperial Toy), Jennifer Karsh (Sr. Research Manager, Wild Planet Toys), and Daniel Grossman (Founder/CEO, Wild Planet Toys). Yes, it is as fun as it looks.
The 21 minute “Hollywood Backstory: Big” features 1988 vintage footage of Hanks talking about the film. Finally, there’s the 90-second news story (or so it appears to be) about the carnival that Fox staged to debut the picture. The next section is 13 minutes of deleted scenes with optional introductions by Penny Marshall (about 2 minutes worth). Penny doesn’t have much to say, but all of the scenes featured here are put back into the extended cut so you’ll have a feeling of deja vu if you watch that cut. There’s talk at IMDB of an alternative ending involving Elizabeth Perkins’ character on another region’s DVD version.
However, no such footage is found on this DVD so if you want that ending (if true, I can’t confirm at press time) then you’re out of luck. Finally there are 2 trailers, 2 TV spots, and a collection of trailers for other Fox flicks (4 Tom Hanks trailers and one for Sandlot 3).
There are enough special features to warrant fans to get this dip since the original disc was pretty featureless. This new cut is nice to see once, but it doesn’t add anything that adds to the film. Even the scenes that I liked in the edition repeat feelings that are found in the theatrical cut. Even without Tom Hanks contributing to this disc, it’s well worth having for fans of the film.