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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
    English, Hebrew, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  • 1 Theatrical trailer


20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 100 mins . PG . PAL


While Tom Hanks was a well-known movie face even back in 1988, the bulk of his films until that point had been fairly low-key comedies, with Ron Howard’s Splash the most successful. Then the man who would go on to win many awards signed on for the lead role in actor/director Penny Marshall’s second feature (her first, the Whoopi Goldberg vehicle Jumpin' Jack Flash, was a disaster), the result one of the rarest of things - a comedy film that managed to delight both critics and audiences in large numbers.

While often spoken of in the same breath as “body-switching” movies like Vice Versa, Big is a very different proposition - and its story, despite being set in the late 1980s, is perhaps even more relevant in today's ever more hectic world than it was at the time.

13 year-old Josh Baskin is not enjoying his growth into adolescence. A clever kid with a perfect Hollywood-style even temperament, he’s starting to notice the opposite sex and finding out just how disadvantageous it can be socially when you’re physically still quite short. He’s constantly teased and often embarrassed, and one such situation at a carnival leads him to wish, with the aid of a mysterious fun-fair “wish fulfilment” machine, that he was big.

Wish granted. Josh wakes up to find that he’s turned into a fully-grown man (Tom Hanks) and soon discovers that life isn’t such a breeze when you’re an adult. He scores a job - ideally, at a toy company, where he’s soon promoted to an executive position - and falls in love with a woman (Elizabeth Perkins) who has no idea she’s dating seriously below her age group.

It all sounds rather high-concept, but Big works beautifully thanks to an inspired performance by Hanks and a knowing script by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg. The balance of comedy and melodrama is close enough to spot-on, and the story has plenty of appeal for both old and young, with jokes tailored to suit both audiences. Despite the vintage of the film, the ‘80s clichés are kept under control, only Perkins’ rather big hair looking dated - well, that and Josh’s 1986-vintage, pre-Windows computer with its 5 inch floppy disc drive and four-colour CGA graphics!

Hanks was nominated for an Oscar for his work here, and the film catapulted director Marshall into the big leagues for a number of years (though her only major success after Big was A League Of Their Own).


Fox have used a reasonably good transfer of the film for its long-overdue DVD release, though it doesn’t appear to be an especially new transfer. Colours are well-rendered and noise-free, and everything looks as vibrant as an ‘80s mainstream film should - but there’s a notable lack of definition compared to the best modern hi-def transfers. This one, in fact, looks suspiciously like the perfectly competent (but fairly old) laserdisc transfer, and the fairly regular scratches and marks on the source bear this out. Despite appearing with almost alarming frequency, though, the various film flaws are never a major distraction - and it should be remembered, too, that it has only been in recent years that studios have fully realised the need to keep negatives and interpositives extremely clean and pristine.

Compared to the only previously available Australian release of this film (on VHS) the DVD is a revelation, particularly in scenes featuring bright colours or close-up detail. Compression artefacts are rare - quite an achievement on a single-layer disc - and aside from brief moments where aliasing is faintly visible, this is a well-compressed (and 16:9 enhanced) video stream.


Audio here is listed as being in 2.0 stereo, with not a mention of surround of any kind. Playback through a Dolby Pro Logic decoder revealed some surround activity, though much of that appeared unintentional. This is very likely a straight stereo remix of the Dolby Stereo cinema original; such remixes into plain stereo were not uncommon in pre-home-theatre days.

The audio itself is crisp and clear, with very good high-frequency response. There is, however, an inordinately large amount of tape hiss present throughout, which upon close examination appears to originate both from the original sound stems and the final audio master tape itself. Despite that, tape noise is never a distraction, which may have as much to do with the film’s command of the viewer’s attention as it does with the constantly busy sound mix.

Without the studio doing an expensive 5.1 remix, this is as good as this film’s audio is going to get.


Another disappointment from Fox, with this now-classic film being given the bare-bones treatment on DVD - the sole extra here is a theatrical trailer (a pre-cinema-release version from the US), presented full-frame with reasonable - but not outstanding - video quality. While it would have been nice to see the inclusion of a commentary from Penny Marshall or even Tom Hanks, Fox have obviously decided that the extra expense of including such material wasn’t justifiable. You get the film, and that’s all.

To be fair, the content of this region 4 disc is identical to that of the 1999-released region 1 version, with the exception that a French-language track has been understandably omitted. Any complaints about a lack of extras should therefore be fired in the direction of the USA :-)

Incidentally, one point worth noting is that Fox’s packaging is, as always for that studio, superbly handled, with the disc’s full-colour picture label exactly matching the background artwork seen through the case when the disc is put in the case the right way up. It’s a nice touch, and something that seems to be an admirable across-the-board policy for Fox.


Big is that rarest of things - a family film that doesn’t patronise the grown-ups, yet still has a lot to say to them along its entertaining journey. If you haven’t ever caught this one, here’s your chance to see it in its proper as-filmed format - and if, like me, you’ve seen Big many times before, treat yourself to a copy and get reacquainted. While the DVD may be bare-bones in terms of features, the film is one that more than justifies the cost of the disc - and it’s a film you’ll come back to again and again.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=428
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      And I quote...
    "a bare bones DVD of a film you'll come back to again and again"
    - Anthony Horan
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