When you reflect on the 1988 comedy Big, you probably think of Tom Hanks dancing around on that giant keyboard, or the creepy Zoltar machine, or a ridiculous loft apartment with a trampoline in it. What you’ve probably repressed, meanwhile, is the horrifying nature of the love story at the center of the film: Hanks, playing the adult embodiment of a child whose wish to be “big” came true, embarks on a romance with Elizabeth Perkins, who portrays an actual adult with no clue as to the metaphysical shenanigans going on. You can see why this makes the movie a bit uncomfortable.
Except… how far do Hanks’ and Perkins’ characters actually go? It’s a surprisingly difficult question. While some critics take it as a given that actual intercourse occurs within the narrative of the film, many viewers remain confused. All we really have to go on is a scene where Perkins takes her shirt off, Hanks cups one of her breasts (still in the bra), and the pair kisses. This is immediately followed by a scene of Hanks walking into the office the following morning with some definite pep in his step. Hmmmmmm!!
Now, your gloss on this juxtaposition may say more about you than the screenplay.
“They fuck,” says MEL film critic Tim Grierson. “Isn’t that the whole point of him high-fiving people and being all giddy the next day?”
Nick Leftley, MEL senior editor, who claims to have seen Big “a few hundred too many times,” agrees: “It’s, like, the crux of the film: He literally becomes a man in that moment, [then] he stops acting like a kid immediately.”
But our founder and editor-in-chief, Josh Schollmeyer, thinks the couple didn’t get further than second base: “I’ve actually thought about this a lot, especially because I had a huge crush on Elizabeth Perkins (still kinda do),” he adds.
So, help us settle this: Does he fuck?
It appears the rest of the moviegoing public is as evenly split on the question as the MEL office. An informal Twitter poll revealed that 56 percent believe Hanks and Perkins actually boned, while 44 percent cling to a more innocent interpretation of the shirtless scene and subsequent high-fiving.
Scouring interviews with the people who made the movie yields no definitive answers — in fact, the ambiguity of the edit appears to be by design. “To put these people in bed and actually have them have sex, where do you draw the line?” Perkins said in 2013, on the occasion of Big’s 25th anniversary. “She can’t have sex with a 13-year-old. And yet, the next morning when you see him, you get the impression [from his happy expression] that they slept together, or that he has been sexually fulfilled somehow. But it’s that very, very fine line of, the audience always knows he’s a 13-year-old, but the [other characters] do not.”
So, sex had to be out of the question, though Hanks is implied to be “sexually fulfilled”…? I’m even more confused. Did they do hand stuff? Some light humping? Maybe she showed him a dirty magazine.
What do I think? Personally, I lean toward the boob-only camp, as it would make perfect sense for a 12-year-old to be riding the high of that milestone the following day. Plus, it’s a far more age-appropriate erotic thrill, so we don’t have to feel quite as icky considering the pair’s relationship. Yeah, I know that may just be a convenient delusion, but let me have it for now, okay?
If they truly knocked boots, we need to know about it. For our own peace of mind, and so we can change the PG rating to reflect this disturbing fact. That’s why I’m calling on Hanks, or co-writers Anne Spielberg and Gary Ross (the wonderful director Penny Marshall sadly passed away a few months ago) to come forward and give us the straight dope: Yes or no? Just a boob-touch, or P-in-V action? Please, be honest with us. We can handle it. I won’t be able to sleep until I get clarity on this. Save me.