review for Big on AllMovie

Big (1988)
by Mark Deming review

While Josh Baskin in Big was not Tom Hanks's first major role, it began to transform the star of Bachelor Party and Dragnet into one of the leading movie actors of the 1990s. Director Penny Marshall and screenwriters Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg tell their story with understated intelligence and a marvelous feel for the mind of a 12-year-old, a time when adolescent obsessions are just starting to edge into the child's psyche. Both physically and emotionally, Hanks does a nearly flawless job of putting the soul of a 12-year-old boy into the body of a 35-year-old man. His awkward gangliness and clumsy over-enthusiasm look and feel as if he's not yet used to the body he's grown into, and his naivete is convincing, unforced, and utterly winning. Josh never seems childish, but rather like a child who is out of his element and determined not to let it show (which, of course, just makes it show all the more). Hanks also had the good fortune to be cast alongside Elizabeth Perkins, whose sharp but sneakily charming personality has rarely been used to better advantage, and Jared Rushton, who in his scenes with Hanks achieves the goofy rapport of two kids talking after school with someone almost three times his age. Hanks's and Marshall's feel for details and willingness to take a subtle approach raise the film well above Vice Versa or Like Father, Like Son, two similarly themed films which took a much broader tone, making clear how big a difference a light touch can make.