"Big" Blu-ray Review

May 22, 2009 by Zach Demeter

Those that purchased the first release of Big, released way back in 1999, no doubt threw their hands up in praise when Fox announced a two-disc release for May of 2007. Like the original release, an example of pre-2000 DVDs that have the film with a slightly-better-than-VHS transfer and no extras, that edition of Big was a shining example of current DVDs, packing not only the original cut of the film in a new anamorphic transfer, but an extended edition of the film that packs in over twenty minutes of new footage. And now that same edition is available on the next big format: Blu-ray.

Synopsis
All twelve-year-old Josh Baskin wants is to be big. But when his wish is granted beyond his wildest dreams, Josh find a new face in the mirror... his own, at age 30. Now, aided only by his boisterous best friend, he'll have to keep his true age secret as he tried to fill his own oversized shoes. But as his innocent charms help him rise to the top of the adult world, Josh will face the biggest decision of his life-return to his age, or remain big forever!

The story of Big is notorious by now. A boy of 13, dissatisfied with his current height, age and social status, makes a wish on a mystical machine at a fair. When he wishes to be “big”, the machine ejects a card out that tells him he got his wish. The next morning, Josh Baskin wakes up a man—in body at least. Even after all of these years, Big remains a charming story that shows us what it’d be like to be an adult with a child’s mentality. While you may think that’s hard to believe that anyone could accurately represent that, after watching Tom Hanks in this performance will make a believer that this story could be real.

This release packs two versions of the film in one package. The original theatrical cut contains everything you’ve come to know and love about the film while the second version contains extra footage that has never before been seen. While the there are claims there’s twenty minutes of new footage, I think there’s slightly less than that. On the second disc there is a handful of deleted scenes, including intros with director Penny Marshal, that are all seen in the extended cut of the movie. The run time of these is closer to eighteen minutes—not that far from twenty, but unless there were small additions to the rest of the film, I didn’t notice them. Still, the scenes look flawless and all add a great deal more depth to the film, although the scene with Billy’s family seems a bit useless as we don’t see or hear much from them again (aside from some background yelling later in the film).

Overall both the original and theatrical cuts of the film are completely enjoyable to this day. While the amount of language in this film surprises me (especially due to the PG rating), I guess a film from the eighties with cursing and an f-bomb getting a PG rating isn’t that new of a concept (Spaceballs, I’m looking at you). Still, the film is enjoyable for all ages even with it’s somewhat higher adult overtones in the middle of the film. Big remains a true classic to this day.

The Blu-ray
Although the 2007 DVD release had what I consider to be the perfect cover, Fox has been toying with their Blu-ray releases as of late to give them unique and different cover art. For this release we get a shot of Hanks playing the big Piano keyboard. While this is an iconic shot from the film, it’s a bit of an odd choice for the cover art, as Hanks is looking to his right with a dumbfounded looked on his face…right at the films logo. Slightly strange, but nonetheless, the simplicity works for the film. Inside the case (an Elite Blu-ray “eco-friendly” one at that) is just the disc itself which mirrors the cover art, so those hoping for that nice booklet the 2007 DVD release came with…you’ll be disappointed. Nothing in here like that.

The film is encoded with the AVC codec @ 24mpbs, giving this old film a fantastic look. While there is flickering and grain abound, thankfully I didn’t notice any obnoxious cases of DNR. Detail remains high throughout this film and it looks to be a clone of the 2007 DVD’s excellent anamorphic widescreen transfer. Sure, it does show its age, but nothing that takes away from the film. Included is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that sounds terrific, although some of the sound effects do sound a bit tinny. Surrounds also don’t kick in all that much, but this really isn’t a movie you watch for the full theater experience. Though I will say this is still a step up from the 2007 DVD releases DD2.0 only track, which was confusing to me when that title was originally released.

Moving into the extras we get a full length commentary on the original theatrical cut. The commentary includes writers Gary Ross, Anne Spielberg and a moderator that keeps them on topic and asking questions about the film. The most interesting thing about the commentary, however, is not what they have to say that was recorded during that particular session, but rather items that get played back through the commentary. Included in the commentary are original “brainstorm” tapes that the pair created during the writing process of the film. You get to hear original concepts that didn’t make it to screen and variations on what did, all from the original tapes. It’s quite a treat and really makes the commentary a joy to listen to.

Moving on we have the deleted scenes already seen in the film (this time with intros on most of them with Penny Marshall). The intros are a bit dry to watch (maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t get a commentary with Marshall), but give us a bit of insight into why they were cut. The rest of the disc is packed with featurettes, ranging from newly recorded material with a lot of the cast (sans John Heard and Tom Hanks) and older retrospectives, such as the AMC Backstory. This second disc alone obliterates the original release of Big in a big way—you get more information on the film here than ever before. The full list of extras include

• 10 Deleted Scenes with Optional Intro by Peny Marshall
• AMC BACKSTORY: BIG
• Carnival Party Newswrap
• Featurettes: “Big” Beginnings, Chemistry of a Classic, The Work of Play, Carnival Party Newswrap
• TV Spots
• 2 Trailers

Overall this release is hard to pass up. Even if you own the original release, this one is worth the upgrade for the transfer alone, but the plethora of special features is all worth checking out as well. Do not pass this one up, it comes Highly Recommended. If course if you already own the 2007 DVD, it’s really a tossup—the old transfer was great and the upgrade to DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio is nice, but it doesn’t really “do” much to help you enjoy the film. Either way you go, this is an excellent release.

Big: Extended Edition is now available on Blu-ray.

 

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