Forrest Gymp... er, Gump is tedium at its best
Tom Hanks is a wonder. He can go from playing an AIDS-stricken homosexual to a man with an IQ of 75. Both roles earned him Oscars, consecutively in 1993 and 1994. Philadelphia was a wonderful portrayal of his struggle against gay persecution, but FORREST GUMP is a lifeless and boring film that has gotten more unworthy honor than Bill Clinton. Winner of the Best Picture Oscar in 1994 (which deservedly should have gone to Quiz Show or Pulp Fiction), the film paints a melodramatic picture that is more fun to look at for a second than sit and watch for two and a half hours. I'll admit, for a few minutes there, I was rather entertained. But once Forrest Gump said those now-famous lines, "Life is like a box of chocolates..." it should have ended.
Many people will criticize my review and me as a person because I did not like the film. That's fine by me. I just didn't care about any of the characters. And above that, the story is a superficial history lesson that wants to seem more than it really is. At first glance, it is an emotionally engaging romantic comedy/drama. But when you think about it, there is nothing here that is worth the money spent on the ticket. Now, don't get me wrong, I love history, but I would rather sit through another college class of a monotonous teacher, learning about where Thomas Jefferson slept while writing the Declaration of Independence than watch this movie again.
Forrest Gump starts out well enough, but soon drops into conformity. A feather lightly drifts down and lands at the foot of a man. He is sitting at a bus stop, waiting for his ride. A woman gets off one of the busses and sits down. He decides to strike up a conversation, "My name's Forrest... Forrest Gump." And so starts a film that will go absolutely nowhere in its 142 minute run. Forrest (Hanks) now delves into a long flashback that begins when he was just a young kid. Young Forrest (Michael Conner Humphreys) has a problem with both of his legs and needs to wear braces that make him waddle like a duck. Kids make fun of him, taunt him, and even throw things. And just when he thinks it can't get any worse, he meets a young girl, Jenny Curran (Hanna R. Hall). She lets him sit next to her on the bus, and he is grateful. Their friendship grows and grows, and flash forward a few years. Now they are teenagers in love. Now played by Hanks and Robin Wright, the two stick together through the good and the bad, knowing the other will always be there for them.
For the film to progress, we know two things: 1) They will have to break up for some reason, and 2) They will get back together at the end of the film. And gosh darn it, the film takes an awful long time getting from point A to point B. Forrest, as a teenager, finds himself freed of the braces when he starts running away from some bullies. They pop off in an almost mythical way. Suddenly, he starts running, faster than anyone. He races right through a football practice, where he is spotted by the coaches. They are determined to find out who he is and get him to join the team. This is the turning point, where Forrest turns from a worthless heap into a useful heap. They use him to run the ball down the field, avoiding tacklers by flying past them. Well, I don't want to go through a complete summary of the plot, so yada yada yada, Forrest grows up, meets the President, becomes a war hero, befriends Bubba (Mykelti Williamson, who gives a performance equal to Hanks) and his Lieutenant Dan Taylor (Gary Sinise).
By the end, we are so exhausted with wishing that Jenny and Forrest would get together that we really don't care if they do or not. Nothing else matters, and yet the screenplay weaves into stupid plot contrivances such as having Forrest run across the nation for no particular reason. He just felt like running. And when he was done, he walks back. Why do this? Who knows, and who cares? Instead, it serves to get laughs from the audience by adding key cultural icons, such as the yellow smiley face, which is a result of Forrest wiping his face on a yellow T-shirt (who is this guy, Jesus?). In fact, a lot of humor is supposedly derived from these types of things, but none of them interested me one bit. The screenplay shoves Forrest into these historical situations, and yet they serve no purpose other than to show off with special effects and Robert Zemeckis' understated direction.
And yet, for some unknown reason, this film was an enormous hit with viewers, and the Oscars. Perhaps people were happy to see this romantic couple get together, through all they have been through. Well, give me Titanic anyday, because Forrest and Jenny's romance wasn't interesting. This couple could have been together so easily, had Jenny just accepted Forrest. But does she? No! Forrest goes off to war, where he gets a bullet in the butt, and becomes a hero for saving his com padres. Jenny and Forrest meet once again while giving a speech on the Mall in Washington. Yet, the entire scene is only there to show off the special effects (and they are spectacular). And yet, this is really the only worthy scene in the entire movie. It's emotional and just plain great. But one scene does not make a great film.
Forrest Gump is truly an actor's film, and sometimes that is enough to warrant a positive review. However, aside from Tom Hanks and Mykelti Williamson, the actors are boring. Hanks is the only actor alive who could play this character, and he brings him to vivid life. Williamson is the underrated Bubba, a man with an intelligence problem of his own but has a clear focus: catching shrimp. What is Forrest's focus? I don't think even he knows. He walks through life, objectively looking at things, but not thinking his actions through completely. He jumps off a boat which later crashes into a dock, which is only in the film for comedic purposes. Hanks portrays the character as perfectly as he can be played, which is more of a caricature than a real person. Hanks deserved the Oscar he was given, but his performance only made the film look worse. His performance makes even veteran Sally Field look stupid. Gary Sinise is an annoying one-note character, and Robin Wright can't seem to find the right tone for her character. The rest of the characters are merely pawns, and not really noteworthy.
Forrest Gump is rated PG-13 for language, violence, sex, nudity, and drug use. This film is definitely worthy of the R rating, but somehow it managed to get away with the lighter rating, which means it is okay for kids to go. Definitely untrue, because despite the film's comedy and light appearance, it deals with some strong subjects that are not suitable for younger children. Robert Zemeckis loves to deal with the fantastical situations of his characters, such as in the superb Death Becomes Her, but here his direction is misguided as it goes for hard realism. Nothing is really believable, but the special effects make everything seem like it could be. Forrest appears in historical situations (which is rather hard to swallow in itself), and yet the only really funny one involves Nixon and the Watergate scandal. Instead of creating a likeable fantasy that everyone seems to adore, Zemeckis has been tricky and altered his film's dark mood with pleasant actors. I, for one, am not going to buy it.
*1/2 out of ****
Reviews by Boyd Petrie