Filmography

MADE 'SPLASH,' GOT 'BIG'

A CRITIC'S GUIDE TO HANKS ON VIDEO

This is what defines Tom Hanks as a movie star: He has invented his own type. No one before him had thought to merge Frathouse Clown and Sensitive Guy, and Hanks' grace is that he doesn't think about it; his timing is as mysteriously natural as Cary Grant's. He's a performer who combines a child's simple impulse, a teenager's scathing disbelief, and an adult's sober reflection-and hides it all behind a rumpled face from the back row of a high school yearbook picture. No wonder he appeals to virtually all audiences, in spite of a body % of work that contains more than its share of misfires, bombs, and outright dreck. There's something in Hanks that coaxes forgiveness: The flops are never quite his fault, while we share in his hits as if one of our own had triumphed. Here's a rundown of his curriculum video. * He Knows You're Alone (1980) How inauspicious is Hanks' film debut? Not only is his role as a wisenheimer psych student in this grimy Hallowe'en knockoff a tiny one-he doesn't even get a groady death scene. F * Mazes and Monsters (1982) In this silly made-for-TV drama about fantasy role-playing adventures, Hanks plays a neurotic college kid who ''flips into the game'' and becomes convinced he really is ''Pardieu the Holy Man.'' He almost keeps a straight face too. C- * Bachelor Party (1984) Slapstick that ascends to inspired dumbness on Hanks' high spirits before plummeting into mere stupidity. C+ * Splash (1984) His rueful charm and ''yeah, right'' derisiveness are firmly established in the endearing mermaid romance that made both him and Daryl Hannah (as his scaly sweetie) stars. A- * Volunteers (1985) A Peace Corps comedy that starts miserably and gets worse. Hanks has moments as an arrogant twit, and he did get to play opposite future wife Rita Wilson. D- * The Man With One Red Shoe (1985) A noisy remake of a French spy farce that makes the mistake of casting Hanks as a clueless schmo. The shoe doesn't fit. C * Every Time We Say Goodbye (1986) He's a WWII flier in Jerusalem who falls for a beautiful Sephardic girl (Cristina Marsillach). A straight romance, it's Hanks' least likely film-and not half bad. B-

* The Money Pit (1986) A strident comedy in which Hanks and Shelley Long buy a House From Hell. Hanks almost saves it with a great bug-out scene at the end. C- * Nothing In Common (1986) Hanks is spoiled yuppie son, Jackie Gleason is obnoxious, ailing Dad. They bond, but it takes forever. The scenes at Hanks' ad agency are a stitch, though. C+ * Dragnet (1987) A robotic high-concept comedy, with Hanks fitfully amusing as straight-arrow Joe Friday's (Dan Aykroyd) partner, Pep Streebek. C- * Big (1988) A boy wakes up in a man's body and spends a lovely, terrible time trying to get back. Why wasn't this another robotic high-concept comedy? Probably because the role embodies its star's unique man-child talent. A * Punchline (1988) Hanks is hilarious and horrifying as a stand-up comic with an ego on overdrive. A brilliant performance in a half-baked movie. B $ * The 'Burbs (1989) Snide murk from director Joe Dante, in which the star leads fellow suburban misfits to check out the new neighbors. C * Turner & Hooch (1989) This cop-and-dog show is funnier than it should be, given the sitcom script. Docked half a grade for killing off the pooch at the end. C- * Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) Critically reviled and ignored by audiences, this flaky comic fable about your average terminally ill Joe hired to jump into a volcano is aging nicely. Peak Hanks moment: Stranded with Meg Ryan on a raft in the South Pacific, he whiles away boredom by frugging to the Dell- Vikings' ''Come Go With Me.'' B- * The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) Hanks gives it his snooty best as Tom Wolfe's beleaguered Sherman McCoy, but, come on, you were expecting Bill Hurt, right? F * The Best of Saturday Night Live Hosted by Tom Hanks (1992) Pretty good batting average on these skits from '88 and '90; the high point is Hanks' testy portrayal of ''Mr. Short Term Memory.'' B- * A League of Their Own (1992) An intriguing shift into character parts as the besotted manager of a WWII ladies' baseball team. He gets to take the longest pee in cinema-maybe world-history. B

Originally posted Jul 09, 1993 Published in issue #178 Jul 09, 1993 Order article reprints