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 an early May release this year. Like the original release, an example of pre-2000 DVDs that have the film with a slightly-better-than-VHS transfer and no extras, this edition of Big is 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.
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 new DVD 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 DVD case 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.
From the get go you can tell this two-disc edition is truly a “special” release. A slightly modified version of the ever-popular theatrical one-sheet (with the “Have you ever had a really big secret?” tagline) and a rotated font easily set this release apart from the original. The case also includes a cardboard slip cover that mirrors the paper insert below it.
Inside the case is a standard two-disc amaray case and, surprisingly, a three-page foldout booklet detailing the start of the production of Big. This booklet is essentially a shortened version of all the special features you find on the first and second discs of the DVD and is a lot of fun to read during the film as it helps you pick up on more things during the film itself. Included on the back of the booklet is a chapter listing (thirty-two in all, with nine belonging to the extended edition only).
Included on the first disc is 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’s newly recorded. 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 treat to listen to.
The only drawback on the first disc is the lack of commentary with Penny Marshall and that there is only an English stereo track. While this isn’t a film that screams the need for a 5.1 track, it seems odd to go through the process of cleaning up the image and making a new transfer and packing it with a tame 2.0 track. Still, it’s a clean track that matches an equally immaculate video transfer (aside from the flickery opening and a bit of color shifting in the scene where Billy finds the fair list in the mail).
On the second disc are 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), 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.
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.
Big: Extended Edition arrives on DVD May 8th.