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Forrest Gump (1994)


Run, Forrest, run! It sure seemed great at the time, but Gump is aging, and it’s starting to show a wrinkle or too. Recently I sat down to watch the double-disc DVD release, and I still found it fresh and smile-provoking, but boy if it isn’t a sickly sweet experience.

But what a crazy chain of events Forrest Gump has spawned: a poorly-received book sequel, a restaurant chain, and hordes of imitators — not to mention a critical backlash.

Why? Forrest Gump certainly plays to the sucker inside all of us, a tale of how a person can overcome any obstacle (even mild retardation!) if he only tries hard enough. Tom Hanks, in an Oscar-winning performance, gives his usual best in the title role, as he rumbles through football games, Vietnam, ping-pong playing, shrimp boat captaining, distance running, and of course, adventures in love with his precious Jenny (Robin Wright), who winds up on the wrong side of the tracks. The problem, I think, is that real people have found themselves unable to replicate Forrest’s success — and these are people who are not mildly retarded. In fact, the more you think about it, the more you start to resent the impossibility of Forrest Gump, and that just won’t do, will it?

The DVD’s commentary tracks (one by Zemeckis, producer Steve Starkey, and production designer Rick Carter; another by producer Wendy Finerman) are hit-and-miss. If you must listen to one, take the former, which offers a few new details on the making of the film plus an interesting perspective on the early days of digital effects — much better than the depressing commentary to Cast Away. Finerman’s track is a total throwaway; I have no idea why it was even made.

On the second disc, you’ll find a number of extras, including a making-of documentary you’ve probably seen before, screen tests (Tom Hanks in character but not doing the Gump voice is bizarre as is seeing Haley Joel Osment that young), behind-the-scenes production footage, and effects specials. The outtakes include unseen footage, one involving Martin Luther King and another with George Bush (senior). And it’s little moments like this where Gump spills all its giggles.