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 and show 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 olds eyes will never see. The main character, Josh Baskin, wished ‘to be big’; he got his wish, and woke up one morning looking like Tom Hanks. Most of the movie involved Tom Hanks 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, great love with Susan (the love interest), and a maturity that most twelve year olds don’t possess. He also earned a pretty powerful conundrum that most kids don’t have to endure; having to choose between continuing a successful adult life, or reverting back to the 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 made was bound to hurt someone. It showed that life revolves around choices, great or minor, and how ultimately, you have to make the best decision for you.
He followed his heart and went back to his family and his young 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 floating 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 can’t go wrong. It’s never too late to learn that message.
Have you ever seen a movie six thousand times, but only gotten half a whiff of the real depth of that movie after the most recent viewing? Case in point; I’ve seen Joe Versus the Volcano at least 30 times since 1990, but only recently came to understand the immense truths contained within it. The film was always on in the background, and I’d often half ass watched it without really seeing it for what it was. The realization and understanding came slowly; a little bit here, a little bit there, until one day I said “fuck it” and sat down and really watched the film again for the first time. I took it all in with a renewed sense of awareness, and a considerably open mind. I dissected it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d enjoyed the movie time and again previously, but I’d only just seen the surface of it. And in truth, I was sincerely blown away. For all of its cheese, the movie was an acutely effective, multi-layered glimpse into a man’s thirst for knowledge, meaning, purpose, and self discovery. Looking beyond some of the dated, clunky 90’s camp, it’s quite a deeply rendered portrait of the journey that we all endure in order to accomplish whatever it is we want to accomplish with our lives. It is a great little tale about overcoming obstacles, standing up for your beliefs, and never giving up. Who can’t relate to that, right? And if you’ve ever hated your job, the “I quit” scene below is a revelation.