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Cinema Deja Vu

August 11, 1996|David Kronke

In 1988, Tom Hanks starred in the hit film "Big," about a boy in the body of a man. Which sounds awfully similar to the story of the just-released "Jack," starring Robin Williams as . . . a boy in the body of a man. How similar? Here's a comparison:

Circumstances that you'll just have to accept because the filmmakers said it was so:

"Big": Thirteen-year-old Josh tells a coin-operated fortuneteller that he wants "to be big"; it takes his request literally and he wakes up 20 years older and looking like Tom Hanks, so he runs away from home to become a vice president at a toy company.

"Jack": A baby is born with a malady that causes him to grow at four times the normal rate, meaning that when he's 10 he'll look like Robin Williams, which of course means he'll become the most popular kid at school.

Reactions from those around him:

"Big": His mom threatens him with a knife; opportunistic colleague at the toy company falls in love with him; everyone appreciates the wisdom he imparts.

"Jack": Parents seem no more concerned than if he had been born with a couple of webbed toes; kids initially tease him; schoolmate's mom favors him with sultry kisses; everyone appreciates the wisdom he imparts.

Supportive pals and their cute antics:

"Big": Billy (Jared Rushton) blows Silly String snot all over Josh, helps ease him into a skeptical society, then helps him revert to normal size.

"Jack": Mr. Woodruff (Bill Cosby) wears, of all things, a beret; he helps ease Jack into a skeptical society, then does a couple of flatulence jokes.

Amazing revelations:

"Big": No kid wants to play with a toy building.

"Jack": Kids like you if you buy them pornography.

Performance of protagonist:

"Big": Actually remarkably childlike (he eats the kernels off baby corn); Oscar-nominated, even.

"Jack": Put "Mork and Mindy," "The World According to Garp," "Good Morning, Vietnam," "Hook," "The Fisher King," "Toys" and "Jumanji" in a blender.

Central irony:

"Big": The kid is nicer than most of the adults.

"Jack": The adult kid is nicer than the other adults and kids.

Message:

"Big": Life is short, specifically: Gee, they grow up fast, huh?

"Jack": Life is short ("life," in this case, seems to resonate with the filmmakers as a metaphor for careers in Hollywood).

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