Public figures fall to bullets while Forrest moves through life just a couple of inches off the ground in a cloud of truth.
The long dry spring is over: "Forrest Gump" is a good movie. It is also a primal call to reexamine the frenzy of modern life. If that makes this movie a polemic in disguise, so be it. We can always use a reminder of what we have done to ourselves.
Forrest Gump's I.Q. of 75 renders him ineligible for a "normal" education and makes him, in that unlovely euphemism for impairment, a "special student." The system didn't bank on Forrest's mother. Mrs. Gump (Sally Field) will have none of it, and makes sure her son will be treated like the normal boy he isn't.
Forrest (Tom Hanks) floats through life like the feather over the opening credits, touching down wherever the wind carries him. Whenever he lands, he brings his literal-minded focus to whatever lies directly in front of him. When a G.I. encourages him, "You can play ping-pong, Forrest, just watch the ball," we know that he will become a champion.
As a little boy, he turns his running skill into a secret weapon that allows him to run away from trouble. He flourishes in football and Vietnam, where obedience is a comforting concept for him. When his unit is blown to bits, he carries the wounded from the burning jungle one by one and lays them gently on the beach. Loyalty is his second nature.
All the while, his mind is never far from Jenny (Robin Wright), the little girl who befriended him in childhood. Forrest's deep love for Jenny is so purely innocent that he never questions the bad choices she makes. Whenever they meet, his protectiveness undermines her already difficult life as a flower child trying to find her way in a sea of losers.
Director Robert Zemeckis uses his quirky creativity with special effects to new advantage. He drops Forrest into old Paramount newsreels, where he becomes a figure of historical record. Kennedy receives his football team at the White House, and Johnson bestows his Medal of Honor. The time line of Forrest's life is marked by the shootings of Kennedy, Ford, Reagan, Wallace and Lennon. Public figures fall to bullets while Forrest moves through life just a couple of inches off the ground in a cloud of truth.
The movie moves at a breezy clip, never slowing to the studied rhythm of Forrest's mind, but it does have faults. A meaningless Pied Piper scene and a too cute shrimp boat sequence tarnish the spell. Gary Sinise is strong but predictable as the unit leader who brings his rage home from Vietnam, and Sally Field is a study in maternal denial. It is Tom Hanks who brings the movie home. He manages to be touchingly credible as he filters life through his simple prism and holds to the rock-solid values and perceptions of a focused mind. He is an actor who is not embarrassed to touch people's hearts, and he does so, deeply.
Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 496
Rating: PG-13 2h22m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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