Picks and Pans Main: Screen

updated 06/06/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/06/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT


"I wanna be big," wishes the shrimpy child hero of a new movie comedy, aptly titled Big. He thinks size will bring power, sex appeal, contentment. It's a common adolescent fantasy. The kid eventually learns that size isn't everything. It's a lesson some guys never learn. Take Sylvester Stallone. Ever since his small-scale 1976 saga about underdog boxer Rocky Balboa paid big dividends, Stallone has been afflicted by creeping giantism. His three Rocky sequels, despite their ballooning cost and popularity, lost the human dimensions of the original.

What happened to John Rambo is worse. When Stallone first played the ex-Green Beret in 1982's First Blood, he was at least attempting to show the real adjustment problems of Vietnam vets. By 1985's Rambo: First Blood Part II, he had turned the character into a cartoon: Sly's image of himself as Master of the Universe. Was he wrong? Not by box office standards. First Blood grossed a hefty $47 million, but Rambo did $150 million.

A few weeks ago Stallone attended a performance of the Broadway hit Speed-the-Plow. David Mamet's play savagely satirizes Hollywood's bigger-is-better philosophy, and Stallone laughed as heartily as anyone. But as the 5'9" actor entered the theater, whispers of recognition were followed by a chorus of "He's soooo short" comments. Is it possible that Stallone, who must hear these remarks often, has decided the public won't buy him in anything except outsize roles? If so, his latest film is certainly a case of rampant overcompensation.

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