The Next Reel • Season 11 • Series: John Heard • D: Penny Marshall • 1988

Big

Series: Director:

We started our John Heard series with some films in which he played the lead. Now we’re looking at some in which he plays smaller but still important parts. In this episode, we’re looking at Penny Marshall’s 1988 film ‘Big’ in which John Heard plays a corporate workplace bully to Hanks’ character. What do we think of the film? Tune in to find out!

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“This doesn’t just happen. This guy — this doesn’t happen. He doesn’t just come to a meeting and say ‘bugs.’”

The script came easily to Gary Ross & Anne Spielberg, but finding the right team and cast to make Big still took some time. By the time the film released in theatres, it was the fourth body-switching comedy to come out in a few years, even though it had been the first to be greenlit. But the script was smart and didn’t truck in dumb jokes, the casting was impeccable, and Penny Marshall found a way to navigate the fantasy and romantic nature of the film, and because of all these things, this film is the body-switching comedy from the late 80s that people still talk about. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue our John Heard series with Marshall’s 1988 film Big.

We’re big on Big

It’s hard to argue that Tom Hanks’ career moved to new level with his performance in this film. He’s perfect in this film, playing brilliantly a 13-year-old in a 30-year-old’s body. But a lot of the success comes from Penny Marshall’s comedy smarts when capturing this story by avoiding the easy jokes.

It doesn’t hurt that Hanks has Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, and the man bringing this series together –John Heard – to work with as they all carry their weight. It’s interesting, however, to read the names of the other actors’ names mentioned for the roles. Robert De Niro? Really?

And then there’s David Moscow as young Josh and Jared Rushton as Billy, the two kids in the film who create the core childlike center of the film and ground it in youth. It works.

We do talk about the troubling aspect of Susan sleeping with a 13-year-old kid – even if she didn’t know he was only 13. How does that hold up? And what was poor Mercedes Ruehl doing the whole time he was gone? There are definitely darker aspects to this film, but again, Marshall smartly focuses on the Josh’s story and makes it work.

It’s a wonderful film. We have a great time talking about it and are happy to enter it into our library of shows, so check it out then tune in. The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!

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