Penny Marshall directed this sweet story about a young boy named Josh (David Moscow) who makes a wish on a magic Zoltar machine at a carnival. His wish is to be big. The next morning, he wakes up as Tom Hanks! He discovers being big is a problem and he and his buddy (Jared Rushton) head to NYC to find the Zoltar machine so that he can wish himself back to normal. In this age of early computers, the records office tells the boys it’ll be six weeks before they can have the information. Josh has to find an apartment and a job. His interest in these magical machines called computers lands him a job at a toy company doing data entry. A Saturday morning trip to FAO Schwarz, where he lets loose and plays with every toy in sight, including the classic floor piano scene, leads him to being promoted to the ranks of upper management, analyzing new toys and pissing off the establishment. One of these people, Susan (Elizabeth Perkins), is a bored, cynical New Yorker who is attracted to Josh…in spite or maybe because of his zaniness. She convinces him to leave their stuffy Christmas party and take her back to his awesome New York penthouse. He gets her to let her hair down and play like a kid again. She enjoys that and it’s intimated that they have sex. The problem is, Josh misses his family. A funny thing happens though, Josh becomes invested in his work and is so wrapped up with how important working is that when the information on the location of the Zoltar machine comes in, he pretty much ignores his buddy. The little boy comes to Josh’s office and gives him the information anyway, even though he’s pissed that Josh has been putting it off. A visit to his hometown, where he sees all his familiar surroundings, finally gets to Josh’s heart and he abruptly leaves a meeting at work to track down the Zoltar machine. Susan follows him to the empty boardwalk where the machine is, and he explains the situation to her. She agrees to drive him home, and watches as he shrinks back down to 12 year old size right before her eyes.
I’m sure this movie is supposed to be commentary on not allowing growing up to kill your inner child…and Hanks does an incredible job of making us believe that this grown man is really a 12 year old. The scenes of him playing with the toys at FAO Schwarz are priceless, and his way of playing naivete is brilliant. There are two big “buts” with this film. The first comes when one tries to reconcile the laughable plot, it’s just too much of a stretch for me. The second, and the major problem I had, seriously, was that, we’re supposed to believe that Josh is a 12 year old in an adult body…who has sex with an adult woman. I guess, from the point of view of a 12 year old boy, that might be awesome, but it just comes across as wrong to me. Maybe it’s because of Mary Kay Letourneau and Debra Lafave, but the story doesn’t come across as a sweet, albeit unbelievable fable…it just comes across as a little pervy.