Forrest Gump

1994, Movie, PG-13, 142 mins

Review

FORREST GUMP
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By the time FORREST GUMP swept most of the major 1994 Academy Awards, it had already become the third highest-grossing film of all time, as well as a ubiquitous pop phenomenon embracing best-selling books, gnomic catch phrases, and reams of commentary on the editorial pages of magazines and newspapers throughout the world. Clearly a great event, FORREST GUMP is not, however, a great film. It has the form of an epic without real depth or resonance; the trappings of satire without a coherent attitude; and the semblance of historical revisionism without a critical sensibility. To paraphrase the screenplay, FORREST GUMP is not a smart film, but it knows what love is--its dim-witted protagonist, as expertly portrayed by Tom Hanks, captured the love of millions.

As he waits for a bus in Savannah, Georgia, good-natured simpleton Forrest Gump (Hanks) tells his story to anyone who will listen. In flashbacks, punctuated by ZELIG-style special effects that graft Hanks onto famous pieces of archival footage, we learn that Gump has led a remarkably successful and adventurous life despite his low IQ. As football star, decorated war hero, Ping-Pong champion, and business magnate, he's crossed paths with most of the important historical figures of the American post-war era. Throughout, his destiny has been intertwined with those of crippled Vietnam veteran Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) and his childhood friend and sometime lover, Jenny (Robin Wright).

Vague in its attitude toward the events it depicts, FORREST GUMP was embraced by several national figures in the Republican party as a celebration of traditional values and a condemnation of the 1960s counterculture. In many ways, however, the film represents old-fashioned Hollywood liberalism: racists are wrong, war is hell, assassinations are bad, and it's good to be nice. This is a film that dares not offend anyone too much. It's good--and profitable--to be comforting.

In order to achieve its considerable emotional power, FORREST GUMP draws upon some of the less savory elements of the American character--most obviously, a distrust of intellectualism and a naive belief in the redemptive power of innocence. Frank Capra once fared well promoting similar values, but his films were far darker, conflicted, and ambiguous. Zemeckis's film has lots of heart but little in the way of guts or brains. leave a comment

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