Everyone thinks it was Splash that launched Tom Hanks as a light comedian. Actually, it was Big, four years later, earning him his first Oscar nomination.

Playing a 13-year-old boy, who becomes a grown-up overnight, thanks to a spooky 25c make-a-wish machine at a travelling fair, he demonstrates what will become universally accepted later, that he is a real actor, not simply a clown.

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The concept is bold. Josh Baskin has a hang-up about his height and so, in a moment of annoyance, after being refused a ride on the superloop for being too small, he wanders across to the strange booth at the edge of the field, where a mechanical Red Indian waits to give him a ticket, announcing, "Your Wish Is Granted". And what is that wish? "I want to be big."

The story is of a boy in a man's body, having to cope with the office, adult behaviour, sex in the city and a loss of innocence.

Hanks plays the teenager as a man who likes to fool around with toys, without any of that patronising exaggeration that comics tend to employ when taking the Michael out of being young. He incorporates vulnerability and fear into the humour, so that when spending his first night away from home in a cheap hotel on the seedy side of New York, he is curled up on the bed in tears.

The film has immense charm and skates skillfully across the surface of sentiment. When he is taken on by the owner of a toy company (Robert Loggia), who recognises in Josh a childish enthusiasm that his present directors lack, he responds to office politics with dazed incredulity.

The most ambitious of the executives (Elizabeth Perkins), who was taught the art of man management with her bottled milk, discovers something that she didn't know she possessed: empathy. As Josh improves his manly skills, he changes and begins to miss everything he has left behind. Success in the corporate jungle, with all its adult toys, is nothing compared to the freedom and intensity of childhood.

Reviewed on: 01 Aug 2001
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A 13-year-old boy makes a wish at a fairground and becomes a man overnight.
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Director: Penny Marshall

Writer: Gary Ross, Anne Spielberg

Starring: Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, John Heard, Jared Rushton, David Moscow, Jon Lovitz

Year: 1988

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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