Growth Spurt (Big, 1988)

Big_PosterStarting 1984, Hollywood gave us about two Tom Hanks films a year through 1990. Some more memorable than others, but Hanks proved himself a pretty reliable comedy actor. Hanks has always come across as a nice guy in Hollywood and thus endeared himself to the audience.

1988’s Big is the story of thirteen year old Josh.  A shorter kid, after a humiliating night at the Carnival where he is too short to get on a ride with a girl he likes, he stumbles upon the Zoltar Speaks “game”. The machine grants him his wish…to be big.

Josh wakes the next morning to find he is an adult.  His mother reacts poorly and Josh goes on the run. As the story goes on, Josh gets the help of his best friend as they try and relocate Zoltar, only to find out it could take weeks to get the information they need.

This leads to Josh taking a job in data entry at a toy company…but he quickly climbs the ranks when a chance meeting with the head of the company who is impressed with Josh’s understanding of toys.  This is one of the things that makes the film a lot of fun.  Everyone  mistakes Josh’s youthful innocence as brilliance and even a real man.  He finds himself in a growing relationship with co-worker Susan.  His complete naiveté over cut throat business practices and male pissing matches convinces Susan Josh is just mature and above it all.  Initially the relationship is not all that troubling.  She has no reason to think he is thirteen and a thirteen year old in a grown up body…and it is pretty funny when she suggests staying over at his place and this leads to an incredibly wholesome night of playing games and the two sleeping in bunk beds.

I am not sure who thought it was a good idea to actually have the two have sex…it is not Revenge of the Nerds territory…but it is just to close to the line of being gross. This is largely in how they write themselves into a corner when Josh confesses his big secret to her. It then feels a bit like an adult grooming a teen.

I think one of the really nice story points is how Josh becomes pretty enamored with grown-up life.  He starts to ignore the goals of returning to his old life…only realizing that he is missing so much away from his friends and family.

Hanks is the glue that holds this all together.  He is remarkably charming and really sells the “kid” in a grown up body better than almost anyone before or since.

Big is still a pretty charming and fun film thirty some years later.

Making Memories (Overboard, 1987)

Overboard_1987_PosterThe self absorbed and rich Joanna hires carpenter Dean Profitt. She is obnoxious and genuinely mean. But after an accident leaves her with amnesia, single parent Dean convinces her they are married and she is the mother to his four boys.

Wow. This sounds criminal and positively creepy. So why is Overboard remembered so fondly by people? Why is Dean a lovable scamp, rather than a disturbed monster for so many viewers? Weeeeeelll…

As one of those people who really does like this film, a whole lot of it is on the shoulders of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. They do the heavy lifting to make this palatable here. Joanna is purely unpleasant, but Hawn gives her a hint of humanity when, long after Proffitt has been left behind (without being paid for his work) she is bothered by his commentary on her life. Russell plays Dean as a guy who is clearly kind of lost and refuses to be a parent to his boys. He simply wants to be a pal.

The film acknowledges from the start that Dean’s deception is wrong.  And in the beginning? Russell puts a lot of charm into his being selfish. But as time progresses, Joanna starts to adjust to her life and her belief that this is her family.  She starts to stand up for the boys and push back.

The entire cast of the film is great, and there are some genuinely great moments between Hawn and Roddy McDowell who plays Joanna’s long suffering servant. Especially a scene where Joanna realizes how terrible she has treated him, and yet he has done nothing but work to meet her every need.  Hawn is very convincing in her change as Joanna realizes she no longer feels at home in her own world. Upon her apology, McDowell (who has a look of genuine compassion for her in that moment) gives advice noting that she has had a very rare privilege to see life from a perspective beyond the one she was born to.

It is the performances that elevate the film above a creepy plot device. And it really is enjoyable. Hawn and Russell have a solid onscreen chemistry (no doubt due to their offscreen relationship) and both have real comedic chops that keep you focused on the characters rather than the situation. So why does a creepy premise not tank the film? Honestly? Um…just because…?

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑