Theatrical Thursday – Big, 1988.
The year was 1988. I’d spent countless hours begging my mother incessantly in that desperate, nine-year-old beggary voice, begging for the chance to see Big in the theaters. I went so far as to cut the picture of it from the film section of the newspaper (it was a big, goofy picture of Tom Hank’s face), and I’d carry it around with me and show it to her with the hope of annoying her into taking me to see it. When she finally did, I loved it then and for many years to come. I’ve seen the film about 786 times to date, but seeing it again recently after a very long while opened my eyes to a few key elements that a nine-year-old’s eyes will never see. The main character, Josh Baskin, wished “to be big”; he got his wish, and woke up one morning looking like grown-up Tom Hanks. Most of the movie involved Tom acting like he was twelve, but what I hadn’t noticed before was the emphasis on choices. I had no idea that the movie was so complex; taken apart, it had some very deep inner workings.
As an adult, the kid found great success working at MacMillan Toys, cultivated a great love with Susan (the love interest), and developed a maturity that most twelve-year-olds would never possess. He also earned a pretty powerful conundrum that most kids don’t have to endure; having to choose between prematurely continuing a successful adult life or reverting to the comforting reality of his youth. In my opinion, the most powerful scene in the film was when he went back home in adult form and witnessed firsthand what he had, and ultimately would miss out on if he chose the adult path. The ‘innocence’ of youth; friends, games, and family stared him in the face, and either decision that he chose to make was bound to hurt someone. It showed that life revolves around choices, great or small, and how ultimately, you must make the decision that’s best for you.
He followed his heart and went back to his family and his younger self in the end, but his decision to do so was embedded in my head for a few days after I’d watched the movie. So many of us in life, when confronted with great decisions, freeze up from indecision, and rather than formulate a well-calculated battle plan, we end up making none and float through life under the mercy of fate. It takes incredible character to exert the power of choice, despite the odds. Hey, if the kid in the film was able to make a sound decision that would affect the lives of everyone around him, then we should all be able to, right? Twenty-eight years after seeing Big, I finally got a sense of the soul of the movie; follow your heart, and you’ll find your way. It’s never too late to learn that message.