20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD Review

Big: 2-Disc Extended Edition DVD Review

Big (1988) movie poster - click to buy Big

Theatrical Release: June 3, 1988 / Running Time: 104 Minutes (Theatrical Cut), 130 Minutes (Extended Edition) / Rating: PG

Director: Penny Marshall

Cast: Tom Hanks (Josh Baskin), Elizabeth Perkins (Susan Lawrence), Robert Loggia (MacMillan), John Heard (Paul), Jared Rushton (Billy Kopecki), David Moscow (Young Josh Baskin), Jon Lovitz (Scotty Brennen), Mercedes Ruehl (Mrs. Baskin), Josh Clark (Mr. Baskin), Kimberlee M. Davis (Cynthia Benson), Oliver Block (Freddie Benson), Harvey Miller (Personnel Director), Debra Jo Rupp (Miss Patterson)

Songs: "The Way We Were", Bobby Gosh - "Welcome to Our World of Toys", Kimberly and Friends - "We Go Together", Billy Idol - "Rebel Yell", Huey Lewis and The News - "Workin' for a Livin", Kimberly and Friends - "Be a Helper Bee", "Heart and Soul", Billy Idol - "Hot in the City", Patrice Rushen - "Forget Me Nots", "It's in Everyone of Us"

Buy from Amazon.com

Big established Tom Hanks as one of Hollywood's most formidable leading men. Hanks had already gained recognition on ABC's two-season sitcom "Bosom Buddies" and modestly-performing big screen fare like Splash, The Money Pit, and Dragnet. But this 1988 comedy took its then-31-year-old star to a new level, earning Hanks his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor and his first $100 million gross. There's been little looking back since, as Hanks has practically defined acting for audiences worldwide with a filmography that's kept him both a critical darling and a huge box office draw.
Since Big, he's garnered four more Oscar nods (two resulting in back-to-back statues) and fourteen additional north-of-$100 M domestic intakes, a track record which is essentially unrivaled and which justified him becoming the youngest recipient of the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award.

Gladly, Big offers more than a superstar-making performance. Though its fantastical premise seems similar to a number of other films released in the mid-to-late 1980s, it is anything but "another body swap movie." In fact, it is one of the most wonderful films I've ever seen.

Josh Baskin (David Moscow) is a shy twelve-year-old of suburban New Jersey when he attends a carnival which quickly changes his life. After making a wish on an unplugged "Zoltar" machine, Josh wakes up the next morning to find it truly has been granted. He has become "big", taking on the body of a 30-year-old (Tom Hanks) while remaining the same boy on the inside. Before he can determine if instant adulthood is a dream come true or a nightmare, he's got to make his way on his own, ditching his family and turning to his best friend Billy (Jared Rushton) for help.

Young Josh Baskin (David Moscow) makes a wish with Zoltar to be big. It's granted and he turns into Tom Hanks (right), a child in an adult's body whose only confidant is his best friend Billy (Jared Rushton, left).

Josh's youthful soul lends him a naiveté and sensitivity, which naturally contribute to him feeling overwhelmed in a cheap hotel in an unfriendly part of Manhattan. The same childish qualities bring a change of luck, however, when Josh is hired by the MacMillan Toy Company. Thanks to being in tune with how kids will react to the various products in MacMillan's catalog, Josh quickly rises from desk jockey to bigwig, impressing his grandfatherly boss (Robert Loggia) and raising envy in co-worker Paul (John Heard). Another co-worker, the ambitious Susan (Elizabeth Perkins), takes an interest in the speedily-promoted chap now in her midst.

With no immediate way out, Josh simply must make the best of his situation, enjoying the perks of the working world, from the checks that yield a fancy child's dream apartment to his blossoming romance with Susan.

As filled as it is with funny moments, Big is no mere comedy, impressing more with a tremendous heart and perhaps the best cinematic celebration of childhood. While it ranks among the upper half of the AFI and Bravo lists of 100 funniest movies, the film is no parade of jokes and, accordingly, it has avoided becoming quickly dated. It continues to lend itself to endless repeat viewings. There are the inevitable plot points that, upon pondering, may fall apart. Big doesn't complicate its central fantasy with flimsy answers. Some may view this as a cop-out, but, as is often the case for such films, an air of realism benefits the film nicely and viewers aren't left wondering "why" and "why not."

Hard-working executive Susan Lawrence (Elizabeth Perkins) takes an interest in the unique Josh, here at a company party. John Heard plays Josh's immature adversary Paul.

Hanks' lead performance is essential to Big's success. While Dustin Hoffman's impressionable turn as Tom Cruise's autistic brother in Rain Man took the Oscar, Hanks received the Golden Globes' acting honor among performances in comedies and musicals. It's not about the accolades, though. This inspired and brilliantly-realized work by Hanks surely ranks among cinema's most convincing transformations.
Hanks nails being a pre-adolescent, not only in the big moments (like the famous FAO Schwarz walking piano sequence or the memorable baby corn eating) but throughout many small, underplayed actions too. He finds just the right notes in bridging a gap between toys and girls which the film's Oscar-nominated screenplay asks him to inhabit.

In her sophomore feature effort, director Penny Marshall handles the material terrifically, getting good mileage out of the laughs and never fumbling in moving from comedy to drama. There are a few remarkably poignant places in the movie, which are not the type of scenes to be singled out during comedy countdowns, televised recollections of the film, or even discussions. One such moment which stands out in my mind is when the kid-in-adult's clothing Josh steps away from his corporate ladder-climbing and office romance to appreciate, merely as a spectator, the simple pleasures of childhood, from bike-riding to baseball to a school class picture. The movie is never maudlin and boasts no jarring transitions (or seams of any kind) from humor to heart. It's a rare comedy which can achieve that, but then Big is rare in many ways. It helps us appreciate the formative experiences we took for granted at the time. It reminds us not to lose the awe and wonder that rarely survives through adulthood. It even reveals that Jon Lovitz, in a small supporting role, can be less than annoying.

As a critic, there's only so many praises one can throw on a film without coming across like a fanatical devotee. Yet, Big is one of the movies I have a hard time finding faults in. Whether you notice things like the terrific cast, expert structure, and outstanding score by Howard Shore or you merely revel in the movie's tremendous sense of fun, Big is sure to delight.

Still from the original Big DVD: Josh tries out Paul's toy pitch - a building that turns into a robot. Still from Big: Extended Edition DVD. Josh still doesn't get it.

Screencap from the movie's 1999 DVD

Screencap of same frame from this Extended Edition DVD


Nearly eight full years after first coming to DVD, Big is back and being given two-disc treatment. With the moniker Extended Edition, there's no surprise that a longer version of the movie is included. Thankfully, Fox has been wise enough to also offer the classic original theatrical cut in addition to a considerable slate of extras. (There's nothing worse than when a movie gets re-released without the inclusion of the version that made it famous.)

The extended cut is no gimmicky claim; there are 47 ways in which this elongated version differs from the original theatrical cut. There are slight extensions, insertions of all-new scenes, an alternate version of an existing bit, and a few scene rearrangements. The individual changes range from 3 seconds to over 2˝ minutes; altogether the difference is 26 minutes. The extended version is clearly less taut than the theatrical cut. Many of the extensions find adult Josh and Billy walking outside to and from destinations, filling in gaps that need not be filled. Inevitably, though, the new footage adds a bit more insight into the characters, typically the supporting ones. We get to see (and hear) Billy's rough family life, most noticeably in a 45-second dinner scene in which his tough mother (played by Frances Fisher) loudly vents. There is a bit more of love interest Susan, adversary Paul, and boss MacMillan. There's more of the adults working, as Josh and Susan develop their interactive comic book line late into the night.

The content does not stand out as being inferior to what made it into the final cut. In fact, the additions are usually seamless. They certainly look and sound as polished as the rest of the film; the first-time viewer might be hard-pressed to spot the additions. The easiest way to tell is the music; on a few occasions, the Howard Shore score clearly doesn't match what's going on. Probably because of the branching technology employed, there are no dissolves among the new scenes either.

Billy and Josh are joined by a woman on the bus stop bench in this alternate version of an existing scene. MacMillan (Robert Loggia) recalls a wooden duck toy he perfected in this new scene, exclusive to the Extended Edition of "Big."

A sampling of the most memorable new scenes: Josh cleverly uses the seedy hotel's pay phone to call home and (under the guise of a consumer survey) find out what to take for a stomach ache, Billy and Josh have company on their bus stop bench, pre-Josh Susan is seen to be jaded at the workplace,

More Photos, Posters,
and Memorabilia
from Big and thousands
of other movies
Josh and Billy roam around a tuxedo store, Josh and MacMillan talk toys during a shared late night at the office, Billy makes repeated attempts to track down a Zoltar machine, Susan becomes suspicious of Josh after some wallet-searching, and Josh's mother tries to give Billy the birthday present (Pete Rose in action!) she intended for her missing son. There are also slight extensions to some of the movie's best-remembered sequences, at FAO Schwarz and the company party. Josh and Susan have more time together; they're seen playing Risk, Whac-a-Mole, and with a new electronic musical touch toy. The movie's ending remains untouched; the final 15 minutes or so are identical to the theatrical cut, surely to the dismay of those who (perhaps incorrectly) remember an alternate ending.

I'm generally of the mindset that theatrical cuts are usually superior, both as the definitive representation of a film and in terms of merit. Experience has shown me that filmmakers' first instincts are usually in the right; for every deleted scene I've really enjoyed on a DVD, there are usually 5 or 6 which scream "disposable." As fond as I am of the original cut of Big, I was surprisingly not bothered by this longer cut. It illustrates that, on DVD at least, there's sometimes room for a longer version, as long as it's not the only option. After all, running time isn't as crucial when you're viewing on your own terms with a remote control nearby. This extended cut provides some funny moments and character development that I enjoyed. It doesn't improve the film or really change it all that much, especially considering that the new footage amounts to 25% of the theatrical cut. But it's quite the fun revelation to uncover these new scenes in a universe thought to be fully explored. It's easy to appreciate the amount of new material and the work it required in being seamlessly pieced back into the film nineteen years later. It's unclear if Penny Marshall is behind the longer cut; she's aware of the extensions in the deleted scenes section, yet there's no "Director's Cut" moniker. That's probably for the best, though, since the theatrical cut remains as fulfilling as ever. Still, the extended cut lives up to its promise; perhaps some distance, care, and sensibility are all that are needed to render an extended edition a viable and acceptable one.

Buy Big: Extended Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English),
Dolby Mono 2.0 (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, Spanish;
Closed Captioned
Release Date: May 8, 2007
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Black Keepcase with Cardboard Slipcover


Whichever version you choose to watch, you're treated to Big in its original widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, 1.85:1. Unlike its 1999 DVD release, this time the movie is enhanced for 16x9 displays. The increase in resolution should be especially noticeable to those with large and wide televisions. The transfer itself seems to arrive from the same source, but everything is a little sharper, clearer, more consistent and more detailed here. Fleshtones and other colors seem quite a bit more accurate and uninhibited in this new release. While those who can really pick apart picture might find some shortcomings, I am compelled to put this among the majority of today's DVDs from major studios: the film shows no sign of age and looks pretty perfect to me.

Surprising and somewhat disappointing, the movie is still limited to a two-channel Dolby Stereo soundtrack. Purists will be pleased that the sound mix recreates the theatrical experience. The rest of viewers looking to make use of a 5.1 setup may be let down by the lack of rear audio. The elements themselves -- music, dialogue, and effects -- are all intelligible and wisely mixed. But, there's clearly potential to expand ambient noises and Howard Shore's affecting music beyond the front channels.

Anne Spielberg, Gary Ross, and James L. Brooks reminisce in "Big Beginnings." Elizabeth Perkins appears in "Big: Chemistry of a Classic." Real toymakers are the focus of "The Work of Play."


On Disc One, where one would normally find a commentary, we get an audio documentary called "Big Brainstorming" with writers Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg (Steven's sister), only on the theatrical version. Ross and Spielberg are "live" to recall their collaboration with the disc's producer.
Significant portions of the track, however, come from old tapes of Ross and Spielberg bouncing their early ideas off one another prior to writing it down. It's quite neat to be allowed to listen in on candid, fairly historic sessions that planted the seeds for Big and gave birth to a surprising many concepts that made it into the film. Those wanting screen-specific discussion and production anecdotes aren't served here and that's somewhat disappointing, but at least this revealing interview-cum-archive track stands out as a unique alternative to the more common approach. Plus, it's all been carefully arranged for optimum entertainment value.

Also on Disc 1, and nearly missed, is an Easter Egg. Cast and crew recall working with the difficult Zoltar the Magnificent in a tongue-in-cheek "True Stories of Hollywood" (2:40) segment. As a parody of E!'s dramatic series, this scores some light laughs. (I can't figure out where to find this from the menus, but those with players that allow jumping to a title can choose Title 5.)

Disc 2 is divided into four sections. First is Featurettes, of which there are five.

"Big Beginnings" (16:28) sits down with writers Anne Spielberg and Gary Ross, who are soon joined by producer James L. Brooks. Covered here are the process of penning Big, concerns over certain aspects, the birth of the famous piano duet, research done for the sake of authenticity, casting a lead, competing with similar premises, and what made the film work.

"Big: Chemistry of a Classic" (23:45) brings more voices into the retrospective fray, as we hear from director Penny Marshall, producers Robert Greenhut and James L. Brooks, writer Gary Ross, casting directors Juliet Taylor and Paula Herold, and stars Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, Jared Rushton, and David Moscow in new interview clips. The efforts of all the film's principals, but especially Tom Hanks and Penny Marshall, are singled out and celebrated. In addition to film clips, there's lots of nifty behind-the-scenes footage. Many of the best-remembered elements -- the FAO Schwarz piano scene, the near-casting of Robert De Niro (who went on to make another one of the 1980s' best comedies, Midnight Run), concurrently-produced body-switching comedies, the movie's public and critical success -- are discussed here and elsewhere, but this succeeds as the most encompassing general retrospective, marred only by the non-participation of Hanks and John Heard.

"The Work of Play" (9:52) looks at the world of toymakers with interview comments from those in the industry as well as footage of real brainstorming and development sessions. Naturally, relevant clips from the film are sprinkled throughout. Though easily the set's flimsiest bonus, this is still well-produced and it's neat to encounter a DVD extra on something besides filmmaking.

This is about as animated as Penny Marshall gets in "AMC Backstory: Big." Tom Hanks poses by Zoltar in the Carnival Party Newswrap at Fox's nifty "Big" premiere. More of Susan at work is found in the Deleted Scenes (and the extended cut).

Assuming you're watching in order, "Hollywood Backstories: Big" (21:15) feels largely like retread ground. This 2001 AMC special covers many of the same topics, with Ross, Spielberg, Marshall, and Moscow sharing some of the same anecdotes, nearly verbatim. Perhaps the best reason to watch this too is that there's a fair amount of 1988 interview footage of Tom Hanks.

"Carnival Party Newswrap" is a 90-second piece on the Big premiere, which shows off how a 20th Century Fox stage set took on a carnival atmosphere for celebrities and guests attending. Anyone with a soft spot for pre-packaged news reports and B-list celebrities of the 1980s should quite enjoy this little treat.

Deleted Scenes are next. Here, one finds eight excised sequences, playable individually or as a group (15:10). Five of these are presented with optional introductions from Penny Marshall, in which the director sets them up with her trademark mutter, but rarely sheds any light on why they were cut. All these scenes -- and more -- are included in the Extended Cut, so the section's of little use to those who have already watched that. Those who haven't may be disappointed to discover that a number of the shorter scenes and extensions (amounting to about twelve minutes) aren't found here.
Probably everyone should lament the fact that the much-rumored test screening ending (in which Susan becomes Josh's age) is strangely absent here, but then that has been disputed and could be the product of many foggy memories.

Trailers and TV Spots holds two of each. The former carries one over from the original DVD (2:22) and adds a new one (1:15); both prominently feature Peter Gabriel's "Big Time." Meanwhile, the two thirty-second TV ads show that both women of the '80s and critics like the film.

Under Fox Flix, we find more original theatrical trailers for the studio's other Tom Hanks films: Bachelor Party (2:05), Cast Away (1:55), The Man With One Red Shoe (1:25), and That Thing You Do! (2:25). As certain studios seem incapable of providing even the featured film's trailer on its DVD, this section is a nice little treat. Yes, they are promotions, but they're not mere commercials, they're carefully-constructed samples which reflect how films have been sold to the public over the years. It's not like more Big-specific extras were left off for them, so it's a nice use of available space and something any Tom Hanks fan should appreciate. There's also a one-minute trailer for The Sandlot: Heading Home, a new direct-to-video sequel.

For a small fee, this couple of the 1980s joined the critics whose praise of "Big" made it into TV ads. Tom Hanks chews his way through baby corn as part of the Disc 1 Main Menu montage. A different montage adorns Disc 2's similar Main Menu.

On older (read "not just out of theaters"), more beloved movies, it's often easy to point out missing things (hypothetical or existing) that would have made good DVD supplements. Not much comes to mind for Big. It'd have been nice to get excerpts from the AFI's "100 Years...100 Laughs" and Tom Hanks Life Achievement special that were devoted to this film, though I guess the Institute might be reluctant to lease clips. The same goes for Bravo's 2006 countdown special. Finally, completists and stage enthusiasts alike would have appreciated a feature on Big: The Musical, the Tony-nominated adaptation produced in 1996, years before movies-turned-musicals were so in vogue on Broadway.

Like a lot of this DVD, both disc's menus pay tribute to the piano sequence in a design that also invokes a Zoltar card. Each platter's Main Menu is animated with a montage of clips from the film set to selections of score.

Inside the standard-width keepcase, which is housed in a largely replicative cardboard slipcover, one finds a six-sided fold-open insert which serves up four pages of production notes and reflections and a list of scene selections.

MacMillan and Josh make full use of walking piano to play "Chopsticks" and "Heart and Soul" to the delight of FAO Schwarz shoppers. Tom Hanks made "Big" a blockbuster and "Big" made him an Oscar nominee and bona fide movie star.


Just a shade under twenty years since it was released, Big is looking like one of the all-time great movies. The film's vast appeal goes well beyond Tom Hanks' endearing lead performance, thanks to a spirited script, an intriguing blend of fantasy and reality, a terrific supporting cast, Penny Marshall's steady direction, a fine use of the New York setting, and an outstanding heart.

This beloved '80s comedy gets treated to a very good DVD. As one of the film's biggest fans, I agree this two-disc set leaves some room for improvement. But between the new 16x9 enhancement, seamless and sensible extended cut option, and solid bonus features new and old, this re-release is a winner, and an easy upgrade over the film's low-key 1999 disc.

If you like Big and don't already own it, don't hesitate to pick this up. If you've never seen the movie but have been interested enough to read this review all the way through, don't hesitate to pick this up. If you own the old DVD and care about picture quality and bonuses, don't hesitate to get rid of the old DVD and pick this up. A great movie, a great presentation, and a great price...what's not to love?

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Freaky Friday (1977) • That Thing You Do! (1996) • Flight of the Navigator (1986)
Toy Story (1995) • Toy Story 2 (1999) • Night at the Museum (2006) • The Santa Clause (1994)
Oliver & Company (1988) • Walt Disney Treasures: Legendary Heroes - Elfego BacaNewsies (1992)

Home | DVD Reviews | Search This Site

Reviewed May 6, 2007.

Text copyright 2007 UltimateDisney.com. Images copyright 1988/2007 20th Century Fox. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.