Storytelling

Big vs. The Wizard of Oz

I caught the ending of “Big” the other day as I was flipping through channels. To quote a wiser man than myself, “Big” is one of those movies that, if you happen to stumble upon it as you are getting dressed, even if you are just-out-of-the-shower-bare-ass naked, you will sit on the edge of the bed and watch whatever remains of that movie.

In the final fifteen minutes, as Tom Hanks’s character (Josh) finally confronts his dilemma, I noticed some subtle things I don’t remember. He’s making the presentation for his interactive comic book, and is describing how the child playing with the comic book will run out of options and finally discover what he has to do to win the game. That’s when the light goes on for him, and he makes his final choice.

Maybe everybody in the world noticed that, and keeps it fresh in their memory, but I had not, so I was struck by the elegance in the story telling. Perhaps it was a bit heavy-handed to unplug Zoltan the Fortune Teller before making his wish, but embedding the solution to his problem within the context of his work is pretty clever.

They attempted the same thing in “The Wizard of Oz”, but I always found it dissatisfying that the ruby slippers had the power all that time while Dorothy absolutely, positively, wanted to get home. In today’s parlance, Dorothy had every right to say, “Are you f***ing kidding me?” She embarked on the journey for the sole purpose of getting home, whereas Josh resists going home; in fact, once he became intimate with Susan, Josh seriously considers staying. All of Dorothy’s trials during her journey were contrived to delay her; Josh’s adventure made plain to him what he needed to do.

Both movies suffer from Ex Deus Machina in that Glinda and Zoltan hold magical powers that start and stop the action. Well I can forgive that. But if forced to choose, I’d watch “Big”. I might, however, flip over to “The Wizard of Oz” to catch that scene when the hair stylists in the Emerald City are giving the Cowardly Lion the old once-over—those babes were put together.