Retrospective Review: Forrest Gump

“Forrest Gump.” Just the title alone brings to mind such classic lines as “life is like a box of chocolates” or the always-entertaining “Run, Forrest, run!” When the movie came out, it was widely praised for its heartfelt story, on-point casting, and its unique look at key moments in American history through the eyes of loveable simpleton, Forrest Gump. So, suffice it to say, people are astonished when they learn that I only saw “Forrest Gump” for the first time this summer. But with the film just celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with a limited release in theaters, I figured now would be a good time to talk about it through the eyes of a recent voyeur. So, here we go: this is my review of “Forrest Gump.”

The story of this film is pretty simple: Tom Hanks plays Forrest Gump, a simpleton to whom good things just seem to happen; he goes to college on a football scholarship because he runs so fast, he receives the Medal of Honor, he becomes a world-class ping-pong player, and he meets three presidents and John Lennon, to name only a few highlights. Along the way, we meet characters like his childhood friend and love interest, Jenny, played by Robin Wright, his army friend Bubba Blue, played by Mykelti Williamson, and First Lieutenant Dan Taylor, played by Gary Sinise. The story is told in the background, and sometimes foreground, of some of the highlights of 20th Century America; no matter what seems to happen, Forrest is always right there in the middle of history, but he just goes along for the ride. It’s a very small and simple story, but it happens alongside some of the biggest moments in history. When you see Forrest go through loss, you feel for him even though it sometimes seems like he’s not feeling quite as much as he should. A lot of the humor in this movie comes from Forrest’s misunderstandings about the world around him and the naïveté that is found at every turn. The movie is both funny and incredibly heartfelt.

The cast in this movie is spot on. Tom Hanks is loveably simple as Forrest Gump. Despite not being the smartest man in the world, you really feel for Forrest when he goes through hard times. But the times when Forrest is actually sad or angry are so few and far between because he approaches everything with a childlike optimism. Time spent with Forrest is balanced out with brief glimpses into Jenny’s experiences. When you cut to scene’s of Jenny’s life on the road, it reminds you of the world outside of Forrest’s optimistic view, and how good things don’t always happen to equally good people. Robin Wright does a great job of bringing this troubled young woman to life in a very believable and sympathetic way. It’s a little off-putting that Forrest, in his simple mind, can’t put two and two together when it comes to Jenny’s relationship with her abusive father, but they don’t spend too much time with it, as it just adds another dimension to what troubles Forrest’s childhood friend and sweetheart. All the other actors in the movie do well, and the way they react to Forrest’s simple nature is what makes much of the movie enjoyable.

The special effects are right in front of you in many parts of the film, and while they’re a little dated by today’s standards, they’re quite impressive. The way they incorporate Forrest into archival footage with real-life legends like JFK or John Lennon makes the film feel all the more real. The inclusion of Forrest in these scenes is what really sells the illusion, and the people who dubbed the voices of these famous voices do a good job. The lips seem a little off, but this was made in the early 90s, released only a year after Jurassic Park, and animating human beings using CGI was still in its relative infancy. But for the time, and even today, they still hold up pretty well.

Forrest Gump deserves every Academy Award that it won (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Adapted Screenplay), and the praise it gets to this day is well deserved. It’s funny, it’s heartfelt, it’s simple in its story, and big on heart. Life may be like a box of chocolates, but “Forrest Gump” is more like a chocolate bar of a movie, in that you get exactly what you want: a funny and touching story about the quirks of simply being.

Score: 8/10

By Joey Sack

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