I often wonder how Josh Baskin feels now, 25 years after the release of the movie "Big," which told his (fictional) story. I wonder if he ever says to himself, right before falling asleep, You know, I'd probably be running MacMillan Toys by now if I had just stayed an adult.
I was 14 years old when Big was released on June 3, 1988. No other movie had prompted me to feel such conflicted emotions: I enjoyed the movie, but I really despised the way adults reacted to it.
In 1988, the consensus on Big was, "Boy, Tom Hanks really nailed what a kid would do in an adult's body." From my perspective then, the 30-year-old Baskin, played by Hanks, behaved like a bit of a moron -- and seemed nothing like the 12-year-old Baskin (David Moscow) we met at the beginning of the movie. Even then, though, I understood that Hanks had to do something "wacky," because a realistic version of Big in which Josh, still in shock after waking up in what he perceives to be another man's body, runs off into the woods only to die from exposure probably would not tug at too many heartstrings.
I may have been the only person who was rooting for Josh Baskin to stay an adult. Certainly that put me in the minority. I didn't have a terrible childhood, but my parents moved a few times, and being an only child made this particularly unpleasant. In June 1988, we had just moved, again, meaning that I would, again, have to start at a new school that fall. The thought of being an adult and having at least some some control over such life-changing decisions appealed to me. For the life of me, I couldn't understand why people were so happy when Baskin became a child again. It was the saddest ending to a movie I'd seen all year.
When Baskin became an adult, he had no credit background, work history and very little education. And yet he made it remarkably far, career-wise, in a very short amount of time. I would say that, after turning 12 again, his chances of working his way up to an executive position at MacMillan toys by age 30 became very remote. He had his dream job, had a huge Soho apartment and was dating Elizabeth Perkins -- even in 1988, I knew that was a pretty good deal. Why anyone would want to return to a life of being mocked at the carnival and hanging out with Billy Kopecki was beyond me. I was living it and could have told you that it sucked.
Over time, movies can trigger reactions that are very different from those we originally experienced. Recently, I re-watched Big in preparation for its 25th anniversary. This time around, all it did was reconfirm that I was right the first time: being an adult is so much better than being 12 years old. And near the end of the movie, Baskin really embraces his role as an adult: he stops spitting out his food and uses less and less of his take-home pay on Silly String. It isn't until Billy Kopecki calls Josh an "asshole" that he even thinks about returning to his old self.
The truth is, Billy Kopecki is the asshole. His friend was living the dream at a toy company and he couldn't let it go, resorting to peer pressure and expletives. Without Billy Kopecki, right now, Josh Baskin would most likely be the CEO of MacMillan Toys. (I mean, sure, he would have given up 18 years of life. And there's merit in the argument that every year of life is precious. But Josh could more than make up for those years by jumping on his trampoline and drinking free Pepsi.)
Right now, Josh Baskin would be 36 years old. I imagine that, down at his local tavern every Friday night, after that one last bourbon he didn't need, Josh would still be telling anyone who'll listen about the time he had it all -- the plum job at MacMillan Toys; the spacious Soho apartment; the trampoline; the wild romance with Elizabeth Perkins (herself finishing up a prison sentence after being spotted dropping off a kidnapped child familiar from the side of milk cartons). No one wants to hear Josh tell those stories anymore. To them, he's just the crazy guy at the end of the bar who repeats the word "Zoltar" after one too many.
Josh Baskin had it all. Josh Baskin blew it. Twenty-five years later, the ending of Big is sadder than ever.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.