[Hanksgiving] Big (1988)

Director: Penny Marshall

Cast: Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, John Heard

Screenplay: Gary Ross, Anne Spielberg

104 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Tom Hanks)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

 

Happy Hanksgiving to all, and a glorious Hanksgiving especially to you. What’s Hanksgiving you ask? Well, it’s the tradition of celebrating America’s favorite actor and performer on the last Thursday of November. That’s right, Tom Hanks (Cast Away, Toy Story 4) No one else was using the day, so why not right? This Hanksgiving, let’s talk Big. It’s weird, so let’s jump right in.

Josh is a young man in desperate need of a confidence boost. He likes a girl, and he’s working up the strength to go talk to her, but he finds that he’s just not big enough to make an impression. So when he comes across an old carnival fortune teller machine called Zoltar, he wishes he were big…and the wish comes true. Josh wakes up the next morning with a thirty-year old body, having magically grown bigger overnight. His mother doesn’t recognize or believe him, and the only person he can go to is buddy Billy, who helps set him up with a job working for the MacMillan Toy Company and living in low cost lodging in New York City until they can figure out how to make him normal again. Soon enough, Josh’s childlike knowledge of toys rockets him up the MacMillan Toy Company ladder, attracting the eyes of the beautiful but joyless Susan (Elizabeth Perkins, Sharp Objects, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call) and angering the competitive and cruel Paul (John Heard, The Guardian, Home Alone), but is Josh ever going to get things back to normal, and if he can’t, how long can he keep the charade up?

We’ll start with the big things here. Tom Hanks plays adult Josh, and damn, he is phenomenal as a child living in a grown man’s body. He just gets it so perfectly, and Big is a tremendous showcase for Hanks’s comedic stylings. We all know Hanks now for his serious roles but we forget that he started as a comic actor in things like Bosom Buddies and Bachelor Party. We forget that Tom Hanks can literally do anything. For this film, I’ve read that scenes were performed by David Moscow, who plays younger Josh, first, and them mimicked by Hanks. It’s a brilliant idea that adds layers to a performance and it’s pretty damn easy to pull off.

The supporting cast is fine, from Perkins to Heard, and I should give special recognition to Robert Loggia (Independence Day, Scarface) as Mr. MacMillan, the head of the toy company that employs Josh. The way he connects with Josh on a personal level and sees him like a son is something truly special. We always look at Robert Loggia as a cranky old serious actor but he’s got some nice comedic timing, and it’s on display here.

Now, let’s cover the most batshit element of this movie: the script. Written by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg, Big’s screenplay is very good but it’s the kind of screenplay that I’m flat-out surprised that it ever got made. I know there were several filmmakers attached to this film over time until Penny Marshall (Awakenings, A League of Their Own) came onboard, and there were several actors poised to play Josh, but the fact that this movie happened is a shock all its own. There’s some very controversial stuff happening in this movie, particularly with the conflict/connection between adult Josh and Susan. I like the risks that the film takes in pursuing the true character choices that would be made, but these are script choices that would never happen today. Who would’ve thought that a movie like Big could actually made some risqué choices?

Big is a fabulous movie that maybe runs a little long near the end of its third act, but it’s fascinatingly put together with a star-making performance from Tom Hanks as he continued to dominate the field as a performer. It’s a not-always-comfortable but very funny look at the absurd situation seen through the guise of relatable and likable characters. This is one that I was very happy to revisit, and I would recommend the same for you. Happy Hanksgiving, and Thanks T. Hanks.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[The Untruth] The Pokemon, Home Alone, and Seinfeld Cinematic Universe

This is The Untruth, a new series of articles examining the craziest theories I have come up while watching movies. But it’s all true, I swear!

Today, we will be examining how the Pokemon Universe actually contains Home Alone and Seinfeld.

I saw Pokemon: Detective Pikachu recently (actual review coming soon), and there two moments that stood out to me. Actually, there were probably a hundred moments, but we are just going to focus on two. The first moment happens when Tim Goodman returns to his father’s apartment to clean it out, and the second is a shared moment in a supply closet/office between Pikachu and Psyduck. Follow me here…

 

Point #1: Angles with Filthy Souls

Tim Goodman arrives at his dead father’s apartment to clean up and get it over with. As he enters the apartment, he hears something playing on the television. His father’s television is playing Angels with Filthy Souls, an old mobster noir film. This film appears in Home Alone as well.

You say, “Big whoop! It’s a classic mobster movie, isn’t it?”

Here’s the ticket: Angels with Filthy Souls isn’t a real movie. It was a fake film only created by the production team behind Home Alone. So if it isn’t real except in the world of Home Alone, then obviously Pokemon: Detective Pikachu exists in that world.

POINT MADE!

 

Okay, okay, okay, but it’s probably just a little fun easter egg for the fanbase, right?

Wrong! Careful consideration was put into placing Angels with Filthy Souls into Pokemon: Detective Pikachu. Sure, it’s a reference to noir films that Harry Goodman liked so much to watch, but is it really? Because according to the Home Alone wiki, the film only really has one scene of note, and it features two gangsters in a duel of wits and weapons. Even the sequel, Angels with Even Filthier Souls, doesn’t feature detectives, nor does the actual film that the title is based on, Angels with Dirty Faces. If it’s only there to denote the noir detective story that Detective Pikachu is, then why not use the myriad of other noir detective films of merit, like The Big Heat or Out of the Past, both featuring great detective characters.

So the choice to put Angels with Filthy Souls on the screen was deliberately to reference Home Alone, not the detective subgenre of noir. Therefore, it exists only in a world where Angels with Filthy Souls exist: The Home Alone Pokemon Cinematic Universe, or The HAPCU.

POINT DEFENDED!

But wait, there’s more…

 

Point #2: Serenity Now, Insanity Later

For those of you that do not spend a lot of time in the Pokemon Universe, Psyduck, the Pokemon partner of Lucy Stevens, is a Pokemon with a lot of power, but in the film, we see that Psyduck’s power breaks free when it becomes too stressed. Pikachu knows this, and tries to calm the concerned and frustrated Psyduck down by saying “Serenity Now” to it.

You say, “Big whoop! I’ve heard people say that before, what of it?”

Here’s the ticket: The phrase Serenity Now only entered the lexicon in the last twenty-some years. Where did it come from? Seinfeld, a show about nothing. Okay, so what does this mean? It means that Pikachu would have to exist in a world with Seinfeld, because there’s no other explanation for this phrasing’s inclusion in the film.

POINT MADE!

 

But I’m not done here, folks…

Because it is possible that the fictional version of Jerry Seinfeld from the television series doesn’t exist in the HAPCU, but instead is a show within the universe. Why would this matter? Because there is another piece of pop culture that contains Seinfeld as an in-universe show. What’s that, you ask?

Curb Your Enthusiasm.

 

Point #3: A pretty…pretty…pretty good argument.

Throughout Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Nine-Season run on HBO (with reportedly more on the way), we’ve seen the fictional version of Larry David credited and known for creating Seinfeld with Jerry Seinfeld. So just like the argument for Angels with Filthy Souls being a fictional film within the Home Alone franchise and the Pokemon franchise, Seinfeld is a fictional show in the Pokemon franchise and the Curb Your Enthusiasm series. If that is indeed the case (which it is), then Pikachu would have to have seen Seinfeld, the television series, created by the Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Therefore, Pokemon exists in the same universe as Curb Your Enthusiasm.

POINT MADE AND DEFENDED!

 

So what does it all mean?

It means that Pokemon: Detective Pikachu has constructed a fictional universe which contains Kevin McCallister, Larry David, and a talking sentient Pikachu who solves crimes and loves coffee. The Home Alone Pokemon Curb Your Enthusiasm Cinematic Universe, or the HAPCYEUCU for short.

-It means that, if Kevin really wanted to defend his home from the Wet Bandits, he need only a Charizard.

-It means that, if the Wet Bandits really wanted to rob the McCallister home, they could’ve used a Gengar with much better results.

-It means that, if Jerry Seinfeld really wanted to put his girlfriend to sleep so he can play with her toys, he should catch a Jigglypuff and have it sing to her.

-It means that, if Larry David really wanted to use the carpool lane at all times, he should catch a Ditto and then have it transform into a passenger.

 

It’s all so simple now!

And the most important thing, It’s The Untruth. All of it. I swear.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Eighth Day… Home Alone (1990)

homealone1990a

Director: Chris Columbus

Cast: Macauley Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara

Screenplay: John Hughes

103 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Song “Somewhere in My Memory”
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Score

 

Growing up, I was not a major fan of Home Alone. I can’t really say why, but perhaps I feel like the film was oversaturated and existed in such a wide capacity that it was just too much. Every year with this film, and I often confused the events of the first film with those of the second which was very jarring.

homealone1990c

At the behest of my mother, who adores the film, I took a look back on it a few years back. My feelings were very different that time around.

Kevin McAllister (Macauley Culkin, Richie Rich, Sex and Breakfast) doesn’t connect with his family. In fact, he wishes he never had a family. When he awakens one morning to discover that his family is gone, he is overjoyed that his wish came true. Kevin’s family has gone to France without him, but now he is home alone while two criminals named Harry (Joe Pesci, GoodFellas, The Good Shepherd) and Marv (Daniel Stern, TV’s Manhattan, City Slickers), known as the Wet Bandits, try to break into his home. It is up to Kevin to protect his home and himself while his mother (Catherine O’Hara, The Nightmare Before Christmas, A.C.O.D.) attempts to get back home to spend Christmas with her son.

I like this movie much more as an adult. There is something about returning to the imagination like a situation like this actually happening. I didn’t have the growing up experience where I wanted to get rid of my family. I enjoyed Macauley Culkin’s ability to carry this movie and the great supporting work from Pesci and Stern certainly help. John Hughes (Vacation, The Breakfast Club) knows how to write a screenplay, and this is one drastically different from his 1980’s teen comedy work. Then there’s Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), who isn’t so much a good director as he is a capable one. He does fine work here assisted by a powerful and unsettling score from John Williams.

homealone1990b

Looking back, Home Alone was a fun time to watch a movie. It has the insane premise which amazingly works quite well, it isn’t derailed by a less-than-amazing Chris Columbus or the bumbling thieves or even the quite rude family members. Still a fun time; still a Christmas miracle.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the First Day… The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

thenightmarebeforechristmas1993a

Director: Henry Selick

Cast: Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, Ed Ivory, Ken Page

Screenplay: Caroline Thompson

76 mins. Rated PG for some scary images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Effects, Visual Effects

 

Welcome to the 12 Days of Christmas, a celebration of Christmas and winter-themed films of all shapes and sizes.

We begin this yuletide tradition with The Nightmare Before Christmas, Henry Selick’s feature film adaptation of Tim Burton’s original poem.

thenightmarebeforechristmas1993c

First off, before we start any of this thing up, I want to make a note. I refuse to call this film a Tim Burton film as Tim Burton really didn’t have all that much to do with the production. He was a producer and that is it. So no, I will be referring to this film, if in any capacity, as Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. But I digress…

After another successful holiday in Halloween Town, pumpkin king Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon, The Princess Bride, Safe) is tired of the tradition. He wants to experience something new. He gets the chance when he comes across a mystical forest with a tree that transports him to Christmas Town where he falls in love with a new holiday, though he doesn’t quite understand it. Jack takes it upon himself to bring Christmas to Halloween Town, including impersonating Santa (Ed Ivory, Nine Months) and giving out gifts to the residents of his home world.

I have grown to love this movie. It has everything that a new and engaging film should have. It has a unique story idea that seems wholly goofy yet fully realized. It has an enchanting screenplay by Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands, City of Ember) that makes the magic real. It has terrific voicework from leads Sarandon and Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone, A.C.O.D.) as well as secondary performers Glenn Shadix and Paul Reubens. Let’s not forget Ken Page (Dreamgirls, Cats) as the sadistic and demented Oogie Boogie. Henry Selick (Coraline, Monkeybone) understands the stop-motion medium and knows just what is enough.

The music here as well is catchy, simple, and engaging to even the musically-declined. Each song is more like a taste and doesn’t wear out its welcome, making the film tight and finely-tuned allowing for multiple viewings.

thenightmarebeforechristmas1993b

Now Jack’s story perhaps could have been trimmed a bit more and the secondary characters could have had a bit more to do, but as a completed work, The Nightmare Before Christmas has entombed (see what I did there?) itself as a Christmas classic and a Halloween classic, a feat damn near impossible to pull off.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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