DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
FORREST GUMP (director: Robert Zemeckis; screenwriters: Eric Roth/from the novel by Winston Groom; cinematographer: Don Burgess; editor: Arthur Schmidt; music: Alan Silvestri; cast: Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump), Robin Wright (Jenny Curran), Gary Sinise (Lt. Dan Taylor), Mykelti Williamson (Pvt. Benjamin Buford 'Bubba' Blue), Sally Field (Mrs. Gump), Michael Murphy (Gump, at 8); Runtime: 142; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Wendy Finerman/Steve Starkey/Steve Tisch; Paramount; 1994)

 
"The wearisome Forrest Gump won six Oscars."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The wearisome Forrest Gump won six Oscars, including best picture, actor (Tom Hanks) and director (Robert Zemeckis). It's based on the novel by Winston Groom and is sentimentally written by Oscar winner Eric Roth. Robert Zemeckis ("Cast Away"/"Beowulf"/"The Polar Express") slickly directs this simple-minded sob story comedy about a simpleton from Alabama (filmed in Varnville, South Carolina) with an IQ of 75, Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks), who was named after a southern civil war hero and founder of the KKK and was filled with evangelical righteousness by his proud traditional southern bred dutiful loving mom (Sally Field). As Forrest waits for a bus in Savannah, Georgia, he tells his life story to a Negro woman sitting on the bench with him.

Somehow Forrest breaks out of his childhood braces and stupidity to pursue the American Dream becoming an all-American college football player, a Vietnam hero, champion ping-pong player and millionaire. Its reactionary theme seems to be that ignorance is bliss, and being as dumb as shit doesn't hurt one in their pursuit of the American Dream. It hangs its hat on the banal accidental sayings of the tedious chatty Forrest, such as "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you get." The ironical joke is the girl that was the love of the asexual Forrest's life since childhood, Jenny (Robin Wright), rejects his love as a young man and pursues a different course that ends in tragic failure. The film alternates following both their life trajectories, as it traces Forrest's successful simplistic pursuits while Jenny takes the counterculture tract and tries to break into showbiz as a folk singer only to find herself having a difficult life. In other words, why try a creative life when living a conformist existence can be so rewarding in itself. 

Forrest remains a blank throughout the film, as the viewer can project onto his character whatever he wishes. The movie slogs along as we are stuck listening to Hanks' affected sing-song southern drawl, the love he has for mom and the puppy dog unconditional love he offers everyone he encounters. It passes through 30 years of late twentieth century American history, from the presidencies of Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. The popular film grossed upon its release some $325 million (at the time, it was the third highest-grossing film of all time).

As Forrest says, "Stupid is as stupid does." Its popularity confirms that this safe feel-good message film is what the public wanted to hear and its ridiculously cheery message can be viewed as a confirmation for the viewer's accepting their own desperate lives. It's not surprising that it was embraced by several national figures in the Republican party who viewed it as an homage to traditional values and a disapproval of the 1960's counterculture. But it also glorifies Hollywood's traditional liberalism: racists are evil, war is hell, and the assassinations of American leaders is not a nice thing to do. This is a mediocre mawkish conservative film that goes out of its way not to offend anyone in its attempt to make some coin, say as little as possible that has any weight and be well-liked. But why is it I feel offended?

REVIEWED ON 3/10/2008        GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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