We think this movie stands out for:
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that of if Big were released today, it would almost certainly earn a PG-13 rating. There's some strong language (including one use of "f--k") and some sexual situations (including a man fondling a woman's breast). There's also some drinking, smoking, and mild violence. A child forced to grow up too quickly is exposed to corporate life, sex, and other adult matters.
What's the story?
Fed up with being little, 12-year-old Josh Baskin makes a wish to be BIG at a fair's mechanical swami booth and wakes the following morning in a grown man's body. Mortified at what he's done, he flees across the bridge to New York City with his friend Billy to track down the fair and wish himself back to normal. In New York, Josh (Tom Hanks) stumbles into a computer operator job at MacMillan Toys. His insightfulness gets him promoted overnight and draws the attention of an uptight female executive (Elizabeth Perkins). As their relationship develops, Josh begins to mature and settle into his adult skin. It takes Billy, and thoughts of his mother, who thinks her son has been kidnapped, to give Josh the courage to approach the mechanical Zoltar booth again and whisper, "I wish I was small.'"
Is it any good?
This movie is surprisingly heartwarming and humorous. There aren't very many funny movies about people who get magically transplanted into somebody else's body; the premise is a stale one by now, having shouldered more beatings under Hollywood's bullwhip than the proverbial dead horse. Prelude to a Kiss is one exception. Another is Big. Both do something intelligent and inventive with that premise, and both are grounded by strong, earnest performances that make the incredible seem credible. Tom Hanks, who would go on a few years later to win back-to-back Oscars for Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994), delivers such a performance here. The scene in which he spends a night alone in a seedy New York motel, fidgeting until he breaks into tears, makes his situation gut-wrenchingly believable. He's not merely imitating the mannerisms of an awkward 12-year-old. There's a profound innocence about him -- that innocence makes him both vulnerable and irresistibly charming.
There are other fine performances here as well. David Moscow, playing the young Josh Baskin, is a terrific counterpart for Hanks. Jared Rushton adds a shake of pepper to the role of his friend Billy, and Elizabeth Perkins looks appropriately bewildered by it all as the reluctant love interest. Penny Marshall directs with an uncharacteristically subdued hand, employing no camera tricks or overblown music here. She lets the performers and the sharp script do the speaking, and gives us something larger than comedy. She gives us something to think about.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Josh's experiences as an adult in Big. Why does he want to be big, and why does he ultimately decide he wants to be small?
If you could be any age, which age would you pick? Why?
What are the best things about being a kid? What are the advantages to being an adult?
- In theaters: June 3, 1988
- On DVD or streaming: October 5, 1999
- Cast: Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, Tom Hanks
- Director: Penny Marshall
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Friendship
- Character strengths: Empathy, Integrity
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language
Find more movies that help kids build character.
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love coming-of-age tales
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.