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Soundtrack review: Big (Howard Shore, 1988)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Big (Howard Shore, 1988)

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About a year after I started working for this big bank, my best childhood friend came to town and we got out for lunch. I was dressed in a suit and I had a suitcase with me, while he was wearing some red pants, a grunge shirt and a cap. He walked me back to the bank (an 18 floor high tower) and on the steps he stopped, looked at the building, then at us and told me that he felt just like the kid from Big, when he came to the office where his best friend, now suddenly turned into a grownup (Tom Hanks), was working.
It’s comedy time again for 80s weekend, only this time  I’m not talking silly and sometimes brainless fun; this time it’s one of the best, most appreciated and most heartfelt comedies of that decade, and not only.  The score for today comes from the movie which put Tom Hanks on the radar and made us all want to have a piano we could walk on and play when we felt stressed: “Big”, the movie where a kid goes to the fair, finds a Zoltar machine and makes a wish “to be big”. He wakes up as a grownup and has to cope with his new life. He gets a job at the toy store, falls in love, deals with a lot of new feelings. It’s a movie everyone should see at least once, because I think many can find something to relate to or wish for in it.
Howard Shore scored this one, and he was the right choice. Big is a modern fairy tale and the music is in tune…here happy, here thoughtful, here serious (but with the seriousness of a kid trying to be an adult), here almost whimsical, and never heavy and burdening. The love theme sounds exactly as if heard or lived through a kid’s perspective. It’s innocent, unknown and gentle. There’s a little sense of magic in every track, as if Howard Shore sprinkled some star dust every now and then. Light piano dominates this score, and it’s a joy to listen to. I love “Zoltar”, “Waking up”, “Visiting home” and “Billy and mom” the most.
The end of the score, the cue “Goodbye and end titles”, is lovely and sweet, and it ends with the wonderful piano tune from the toy store. It makes me relate to the kid’s feelings: happiness that he went back to his family, a sense of wonder at the adventure he just lived, and a sense of relief that it was all just a glimpse and the adult problems are postponed for a few more years. There’s time for growing up, and I know that kid will enjoy the rest of his childhood even more. This final cue has a very high nostalgic value for me, and it’s a fairytale ending to a beautiful score.
The music from “Big” transports me right back in the magical world of the movie, and I am very happy that it is such a beautiful composition. I love the movie and it would have been a shame not to be able to travel back in time through its score. Howard Shore understood perfectly how this story should sound like. I’m sure he imagined watching this movie with his children and thought about how to complete that fairytale world with his music. I myself can’t wait to watch this movie with the daughter we’re expecting, and I will surely play this score to her long before that…
My ratings:
Cue rating: 87 / 100
Total minutes of excellence:  52 / 62
Album excellence: 84%
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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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