Forrest Gump (1994)

"That boy sure is a runnin' fool." - Citizen of Gump's hometown.

FORREST GUMP is a supremely entertaining triptych of recent American
history (circa 1950 through 1980), as seen through the eyes of the
slow-witted title character.  From racial integration to Watergate,
there stands Gump (Tom Hanks).  He never knows exactly what's going on,
but his big heart and good intentions eventually make him a millionaire.
He even meets three presidents, courtesy of ILM's gee-whiz special
effects that place Tom Hanks in the middle of historical footage.


Forrest Gump, IQ of 75, resident of rural Alabama, was born into braces.
Leg braces, that is.  As the story opens, Forrest is being fitted to fix
a back that's "as crooked as a politician." But Gump runs right out of
those braces and once he starts running, he never stops. He runs through
college on a football scholarship. He runs through Vietnam and is
wounded in action.  He even runs across the country to become a folk

The script, by Eric Roth from the Winston Groom novel, places Gump at
the center of nearly every major event of the "baby boomer" era.  He
meets everyone, from Elvis Presley to Richard Nixon (The King to The
Crook?), travels everywhere, and even invents the phrase best translated
as "ka-ka occurs."

Where the fun comes from is hearing what Gump to has to say about all
these things. His reactions are priceless-- in Vietnam, he recalls "we
were always looking for this guy, Charlie"-- and add a wealth of honest
humor to a rather humorless period of American history.

The anchor, the center, the thing-that-holds-this-film-together is Tom
Hanks, giving a command performance in the title role.  He draws upon
that deadpan innocence from BIG and creates a character not too
far-removed from the good-natured hayseeds that Andy Griffith played so

The small supporting cast includes Robin Wright and Sally Field, both
perfunctory as Forrest's girlfriend and mother, respectively. Acting
veteran Gary Sinese is quite good as Gump's war-buddy and later business
partner.  Best of the rest is Mykelti Williamson, playing a
scene-stealing slow-mover who becomes Forrest's best friend.

FORREST GUMP *should* be as powerful as all get-out, but, instead, feels
both vaguely empty and slightly sterile.  The lack of emotional punch is
probably due to the title character-- who can feel a rollercoaster of
emotions about a character who cannot?

Nor is FORREST GUMP as gritty as the story suggests. The Vietnam
sequence is harrowing, no duh, but never *quite* crosses the line into
complete believability.  Still, what do you expect from the director of
who *other* than Zemeckis could choreograph so many diverse effects in
one film?

For some, FORREST GUMP shall be the season's most effective (and only?)
tear-jerker.  Others may find themselves less affected, observing the
events the same way as Forrest Gump does: without feeling much of
anything.  But watch out at Oscar time!  (Rated "PG"/140 min.)

NOTE:  Gripes to Paramount Pictures, for including too many key plot
points in the trailer.  What a shame.

BOTTOM LINE:  Supremely entertaining triptych of recent American
history, as seen through the eyes of the slow-witted title character.
You'll laugh, you might cry, and you'll love one of the year's best
performances from Tom Hanks.

Grade: A-

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

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