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Paramount Studios presents
"You have to do the best with what God gave you."
DVD ReviewIn the summer of 1994 I found myself watching a sneak preview of Forrest Gump with only thirteen other moviegoers in attendance. When I went back four weeks later the auditorium was sold out and remained that way in theaters everywhere throughout the summer. Moving like a storm across the country, Robert Zemeckis' film became an instant classic that planted itself in film history as well as pop culture. To date, it is one of only three films (along with Barry Levinson's Rain Man and the mammoth Titanic) to win the triple crown of motion pictures; topping the box office for the year, receiving over ten Academy Award® nominations, and the Best Picture Oscar.
When my high school English teacher assigned Winston Groom's satiric novel as my year end paper, I immediately passed it off as a lousy assignment and reluctantly began to read the first page. I was immediately hooked; I had never read anything like it before, and the filmed version works in the same way. Zemeckis blends genres together, as Forrest Gump can be described as a comedy, a drama, a satire, and at times a poignant look at friendship spread across several decades.
As Forrest sits on a park bench waiting for his bus to come along he begins to tell his story to anyone who will listen, beginning with his childhood in Greenbow, Alabama where his mother ran a boardinghouse. Forrest tells of his days growing up, of how he had to wear leg braces to correct his posture and, most importantly, the meeting of his lifelong friend, Jenny Curran. As Forrest's braces come off, his life begins to take unexpected turns that culminate in being a football hero at the University of Alabama, meeting three presidents (Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon), becoming a war hero, and a successful shrimp boat captain.
On his way to Vietnam, Forrest meets one of two people who will change his life forever. The first is Bubba (Williamson), a sort of counterpart to Forrest whose sole purpose in life is to become a shrimp boat captain after the war is over. In Vietnam, Forrest finds himself under the command of Lieutenant Dan Taylor (Sinise), a man whose ancestors have died in every American war. On a fateful day in the jungle Forrest saves Lieutenant Dan's life, only to watch Bubba die moments later in his arms.
With everything that greets Forrest in his travels, his world still revolves around Jenny (Wright) and a love that began in grade school still exists in his later years. Even as Forrest visits the White House on numerous occasions and receives other honors, he would trade it all to be with her. Although Jenny tells Forrest that he "doesn't know what love is," Forrest, in many ways, has a greater understanding than she does. Yet, as morals and times change, Forrest remains a constant in Jenny's life, even though they follow different paths: as Jenny moves across the country, her life becomes littered with drugs, stripping, anti-war rallies and love-ins.
Forrest Gump is a film about persevering through all of the bad hands life deals our way. For Forrest, love is what drives him through life, knowing that "I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is" and ultimately it is that admission that makes his life something special. Screenwriter Eric Roth, adapting from Groom's novel, shows Forrest as a man who isn't the brightest, but knows to be honest and decent and it is through these qualities that an extraordinary character is created. Too many film creations offer a skewed look at decency in human beings; Forrest Gump gets it just right with a character who never loses track of his beliefs.
For director Zemeckis, Forrest Gump represents a change of pace. Famous for the Back To the Future trilogy as well as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Zemeckis brings several elements from his previous films to Gump. While there are several humorous moments, as well as a sprawling epic-like feel, Zemeckis smartly makes the story the star and sets his plot against the impressive sets and special effects. The use of popular music is also worthy of note, as the choices made by the director seem to fit their scenes perfectly. In the end, Zemeckis does what great directors do: he keeps the audience laughing one moment and ready to cry the next. It is a very assured piece of craftsmanship that will rank as the best in an illustrious career.
It would be hard to praise Forrest Gump without calling attention to the visual effects done by Industrial Light and Magic. From Hanks seamlessly handshake with President Kennedy in newsreel footage to the sleight-of-hand with Gary Sinise's legs, this is one of only a handful of films to use CGI to truly better itself.
As anyone who has knowledge of film can attest to, Tom Hanks is quite possibly the greatest actor of this—or any—generation. With his performance in the title role, Hanks creates his most impressive character. From his dead-on southern accent to an almost childlike innocence, his work here is easily the best in recent memory. There are detractors who claim that anyone could have played the part; I disagree. It is Hanks who makes us care about Forrest, and I couldn't imagine another actor in the role.
In supporting roles, both Robin Wright and Gary Sinise are equally impressive, as their work gives the film an opposing view to that of Forrest. Sinise's work brings a harsh edge to the movie as his scenes with Forrest later in the film show a man who has seen anger and realized that it is not the way to live a life. Wright plays Jenny with great perception and skill, and with her performance it is easy to want Jenny and Forrest to be together. I liked Wright's performance for the ways that it shows that, above all, she wants Forrest to be happy, and that she cares about him, even when she doesn't know that she does, in fact, love him.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+
Image Transfer Review: Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and created via a new high-definition master, Paramount's Forrest Gump has never looked better. As the colors change throughout the picture, depending on the location, they are consistently excellent. From the tans and browns of Forrest's childhood to the greens of the Vietnam's jungles, each color comes across looking spot on. Black levels are fine with very little visible grain in darker scenes such as in chapters 6 and 7, as the rains in Vietnam come down. Sharpness and detail are each fine, with the latter faltering at times in the daytime scenes. Certainly the most amazing section of this transfer comes as Forrest begins his run across the country (Chapter 16). The sunsets and mountains look nothing short of terrific. There is some edge enhancement that is noticeable, yet this problem is common in even some of the best discs available. Overall, my first experience watching this in widescreen, in the privacy of my own home, was terrific, and I can honestly say that you will have the same reaction I did.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix runs the gamut, from being overly active to dialogue only, yet the quality is always terrific. The split surrounds come alive, in the battle scenes as well as the hurricane attack in Chapters 12 and 13, with the .1 LFE track becoming very aggressive in both instances. Yet when the mix isn't booming, it provides great sound, and Alan Sivestri's beautiful score is reproduced with great care, while dialogue sounds crisp and easy to understand. This is not a showy mix, yet it is that achievement that makes it one of the best tracks I have heard recently.
A French 2.0 mix is also provided.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Robert Zemeckis, producer Steve Starkey, and production designer Rick Carter; producer Wendy Finerman
Two audio commentary tracks are found on this disc, and the result is a sort of mixed bag. The first track features director Robert Zemeckis, producer Steve Starkey and production designer Rick Carter, while the second features producer Wendy Finerman. The first track has the three recorded separately, yet it is still an entertaining commentary. Zemeckis does the lion's share of speaking as he discusses in depth the production of the picture, as well as the postproduction special effects. Carter spends his limited amount of time talking about locations and his work to make the most of what was available. Most impressive is his admission that the scenes in Vietnam are actually a golf course in the Carolinas. Starkey's comments are limited to the story and the actors. This is a nice track, though not as informative as I would have hoped.
The second commentary by producer Wendy Finerman is slightly more informative, yet not as active as the first commentary. As one might guess, Finerman's comments deal more with the relation of the film as it came from the script to the screen. She talks more about the picture as a whole and the impact it had on society. Overall this is a nice track that is dragged down by numerous gaps of silence that become frustrating.
This is where the disc becomes worth the money.
Paramount provides four different featurettes, each dedicated to the creation of key sequences in the film. First is Through the Ears of Forrest Gump, which shows five of the film's more intense sequences, and the creation of the sound mix for those scenes. Overall, this is an interesting featurette, though there fails to be anything worthy of repeat viewing. The Magic of Makeup runs 10 minutes and showcases the costumes used, with interviews by the makeup supervisor, as well as screen tests by the actors in their final costumes. Building the World of Gump is more an extension of the first commentary track as it features production designer Rick Carter. Running 8 minutes in length, Carter discusses several sets that had to be created digitally and those that took time and effort to build by hand. Finally, Seeing is Believing is a series of 11 key visual effects sequences, broken down and explained by effects supervisors Ken Ralston and Stephen Rosenbaum. Most noteworthy of this section is the inclusion of two deleted scenes featuring Forrest interacting with George Bush Sr., and Martin Luther King Jr. This is easily the most informative of the featurettes as we learn how many of the special effects were created, and that those we thought to be real were indeed the creation of the folks at ILM.
Three screen tests are offered featuring Robin Wright and Tom Hanks, Michael Conner Humphreys and Hanna R. Hall (younger versions of Forrest and Jenny), and finally Haley Joel Osment, as Forrest Jr. A photo gallery of publicity stills, the theatrical trailer and re-release trailer tie things up.
Extras Grade: A
Final CommentsForrest Gump is a wonderful, uplifting movie that while not perfect, is very close to achieving that mark. For anyone who doubts the quality of this film, note the five films nominated for best picture in 1994: Pulp Fiction, Four Weddings and A Funeral, The Shawshank Redemption, Quiz Show, and Forrest Gump. Each of these films are terrific, yet the Oscar® went to Forrest Gump, certainly the best film in terms of acting, direction, and script. Highly Recommended.
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