Forrest Gump | Movies | Palo Alto Online |

Movie Review

Forrest Gump

Whole star
Rated PG-13 for drug content, some sensuality and war violence. 2 hours, 22 minutes.
Publication date: Jul. 8, 1994
Review by Marc Vincenti
Released: (1994)

Coming upon a Tom Hanks I'd never seen before--butch haircut, balked articulation, stick-figure body--I sat up in anticipation. And after absorbing the premise--Forrest Gump is born "stupid" ("simple" the press kit later told me)--I anticipated the story: Forrest fights the prejudices of the "smart." Learns from experience. Engages with issues of mental retardation. But none of this happens, and as Gump, in a picaresque plunge through the passages of the baby boom, becomes an Alabama gridiron hero, a Vietnam war hero and a millionaire shrimp fisherman, I understood why. The movie, like others directed by Robert Zemeckis ("Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"), is fantasia. Subtitle it "The Adventures of Everydweeb."

Other fictional protagonists have had odd endowments, living as cockroaches, or invisibly, or with outsized thumbs. But why are we asked to feel for Gump when his only "sympathetic" trait is his defect? And why are we asked simultaneously to laugh at him for his defect? Is it really funny that Forrest thinks "coon" means raccoon? Or that, while visiting the Oval Office, he has to pee? Through his ineptitude and the magic of digitalization, Forrest is inserted into political upheavals and photo-ops: it was really he who broke Watergate, he who stood behind George Wallace on the Tuscaloosa campus. But it's one thing to refract history through a made-up bit player; it's another to trivialize the civil rights struggle or the Vietnam War, or to remark "simply" of the Kennedy killings, "It must be hard, being brothers."

The press kit says Gump "brings a rare clarity to what we went through in the '50s, '60s and '70s." But I only saw a pitiful stooge taking the pie of life in the face, thoughtfully licking his fingers. It's disturbing that someone thought this film would be fun.

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