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This movie won Oscars for Best Picture; Actor (Tom Hanks); Director (Robert Zemeckis); Film Editing; Adapted Screenplay; and Visual Effects.

'Forrest Gump' (PG-13)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 08, 1994

At first, the sight of Tom Hanks in " Forrest Gump, " dressed in a suit and dirty sneakers, sitting vacantly at a bus stop, brings up disconcerting familiarities. Shades of "Rain Man," "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" and hundreds of other noble-simpleton movies. Not another one!

Then Hanks's voice -- he's Forrest -- begins its halting, Alabama articulation. It's hard at first to accept Hanks as a southern, addlebrained naif. But his monotonously unique twang builds credibility. If this isn't true Alabaman, you figure, it's true Forrest.

Immediately, Robert Zemeckis's movie, based on the novel by Winston Groom, starts working its charms. Forrest has a mouthful of yarn to unwind, with experiences from childhood to five minutes ago. The story's a tad long (the movie's almost 2 hours) and Forrest's listeners are constantly changing guard, leaving to catch their buses. But there's always someone sitting beside him, thoroughly captivated with the narrative.

Forrest (played as a boy by Michael Humphreys) starts off as a gimpy kid in leg braces whose IQ is too low for him to get into public school. But his dedicated mother (Sally Field) finds a way around that. "Your Mama sure does care about your schooling, son," says Forrest's principal as he emerges, panting and sweating, from Mama's bedroom.

When Forrest is befriended by schoolmate Jenny (Hanna Hall), a lifelong friendship begins. After shedding those braces and realizing he can run like the wind, Forrest begins a highly eventful life.

He becomes a college football star, a decorated soldier in Vietnam, a ping-pong champion and a folkloric jogger-hero. He meets presidents and celebrities. He travels the world over. He honors a promise made to deceased war pal Bubba (Mykelti Williamson) to run a shrimp boat. He takes care of his former lieutenant (Gary Sinise), a man painfully embittered by his war experiences.

Throughout these numerous episodes, Forrest's naivete remains his strongest and most enduring asset. "I got to see a lot of the countryside," he says brightly of his time in the emotional nightmare known as Vietnam. "And we were always looking for this guy named Charlie."

Forrest's other guiding light is Jenny (played as an adult by Robin Wright), whose less-savory destiny includes waitress, hippie, stripper and radical '60s groupie. As they bump and re-bump into each other over the years, Forrest's romantic devotion remains steadfast. When Jenny's egocentric student-boyfriend slaps her in the face, Forrest -- in military uniform -- beats the abusive radical into a pulp. Turning to the dumbfounded lefties and Black Panthers who have witnessed this debacle, Forrest apologizes like a kid: "Sorry I had a fight in the middle of your Black Panther party."

Zemeckis, who made the "Back to the Future" series, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," "Romancing the Stone" and "Death Becomes Her," employs his arsenal of flashy filmmaking, with the help of his regular team: special effects supervisor Ken Ralston and Industrial Light & Magic. In some of the movie's best moments, Forrest interacts with historical figures with the help of computer digitizing. He's there when Gov. George Wallace refuses to accept black students at the University of Alabama. He shakes hands with JFK, shows a war wound on his derriere to President Johnson and joins John Lennon on the Dick Cavett Show.

But as with many Zemeckis films, " Forrest Gump" loses narrative momentum long before the end. There's also an intrinsic flaw to the story: Although the movie is deliberately vague about Forrest's mental faculties, it's clear he can never truly be "cured."

For the most part, however, this is a captivating experience. Hanks is superb, reemploying the childlike presence he brought to "Big." In whatever situation he finds himself in, whether before thousands at a peace rally at the Lincoln Memorial, or alone with Jenny, as she makes him fondle her breasts, his performance is priceless. "Oooooooh," he exclaims at the latter event, as if he'd just scaled Mount Everest, "I'm all dizzy."

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