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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 Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 06, 1994

Tom Hanks adopts a drawl to match the wits of the simple-minded hero of "Forrest Gump, " a lovable naif whose remarkable exploits stretch from the TV debut of Elvis to the invention of the Happy Face. A nostalgic odyssey deftly directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film will also take boomers back to futures that were lost to darker American episodes over the past 30 years.

Zemeckis, an undisputed master of film technology, shows off an equal aptitude for vivid storytelling in bringing Winston Groom's picaresque novel to screen. Skillfully adapted by screenwriter Eric Roth, the story belongs in the company of such sweet classics as "Rain Man" and "Harvey," but for all its conviviality suggests that only a simpleton could miss the erosion in the American national character. Like the gardener in "Being There," Forrest benefits from a below-average IQ and an even temperament.

Forrest, the son of a steel magnolia (Sally Field), is also aided mightily by his mother's constant faith and homey maxims. "Stupid is as stupid does" and "Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get" are the ones he finds most useful in dealing with the increasing complexities of his universe. And along with his many shortcomings, he was also born blessed with fleet feet, a knack for ping-pong and a surplus of optimism.

Hanks, who vanishes inside the character of Forrest, loiters over his vowels and labors over his thoughts as he politely tells the story of his life to a series of strangers at a Savannah, Ga., bus stop. Most folks rustle their reading materials, but Forrest, who is incapable of recognizing a hint, continues in his halting way. Among his incredible achievements, he has been a football all-star, a Vietnam War hero, an international ping-pong champ, a shrimp boat captain and a billionaire.

Like Woody Allen's character in "Zelig," Forrest shows up in newsreel and TV footage thanks to technological sorcery, so well and hilariously employed by Zemeckis here. He meets with Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon—who gets him a better hotel room at the Watergate—and guests alongside John Lennon on "The Dick Cavett Show." Frequently a catalyst for social and political change, Forrest has no understanding of the chaos around him. This makes him the perfect soldier to the delight of his drill sergeant and the perfect friend to his lifelong love, Jenny (Robin Wright).

Abused by her father, Jenny searches for love in all the wrong arms, though her restless quest for happiness more accurately mirrors her generation's experiences than does Forrest's rooted Rockwellianism. Refusing to settle for Southern comforts, she experiments with sex, drugs, disco dancing, political activism and, when it's almost too late, motherhood. Though her travels take her cross-country, she always comes home to Forrest.

In one of the movie's sweetest scenes, Forrest looks on with bemusement as she throws rock after rock at her old house. When she runs out of stones, she falls to the ground and sobs. "Sometimes there just aren't enough rocks," figures Forrest, who sits down beside Jenny to wait for as long as it takes. He is, after all, loyal to his friends even in death.

"Forrest Gump" is as poignant as it is romantic, for it is not only a love story but a war story featuring fine supporting performances from Gary Sinise, as a bitter amputee who becomes Forrest's first mate on the shrimp boat, and Mykelti Williamson, as the hero's equally guileless war buddy whom Forrest rescues during an ambush by the Viet Cong. Sometimes, Forrest is too good to be true, and you start to wonder if the filmmakers aren't suggesting we all go out and get lobotomies for a better tomorrow. Well, maybe just a little Prozac.

Copyright The Washington Post

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