- Rated PG-13
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All photos © Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by Jeff Giles
fter more than $675 million in global box office receipts, six Oscars, and countless unfunny knuckleheads drawling “life is like a box of chocolates” once a day for the back half of the ‘90s, it’s become rather fashionable to bag on “Forrest Gump” – to dismiss it as a high-fructose bon bon of a movie, an overly sentimental patchwork quilt of modern American history without an honest point of view. And if anything, director Robert Zemeckis’ post-“Gump” projects have only reinforced this opinion; yeah, he helmed “Contact” and “Cast Away,” but he’s also the man responsible for the dead-eyed mo-cap trilogy of “The Polar Express,” “Beowulf,” and “A Christmas Carol” – with a “Yellow Submarine” remake on the way. He’s a guy more interested in giving you stuff to look at than think about, in other words.
Except here’s the thing: even if its success was overblown, so was the backlash. “Forrest Gump” is a beautiful looking film, one that moves at a stately pace, and one stuffed with pat-sounding quotable lines like, well, “life is like a box of chocolates.” Beneath all that, however, lies a pretty dark movie – a movie that says life is also like an endless succession of really horrible things like genetic defects, discrimination and persecution, loneliness, murder, war, mutilation, and the painful, unjust death of friends and loved ones. Tom Hanks played the dull-witted, good-natured Forrest so convincingly – and the movie’s special effects were so dazzling – that his blithe bumbling through the major events of the late 20th century became the focus, rather than whatever Zemeckis and screenwriter Eric Roth (and Winston Groom, who wrote the novel the movie is based on) were trying to say about a 30-year chunk of American history.
And what were they trying to say, exactly? Is “Forrest Gump” a satire about the American dream? Is it a lamentation of lost innocence? A really expensive picaresque? All of the above? You could make a persuasive argument for all of them, and that ambiguity is a big part of the movie’s almost universal appeal. As Forrest grows from a brace-legged outcast into a war hero, ping-pong champion, and captain of industry, he echoes our hopes for a better tomorrow while embodying a belief in the basic goodness of human nature. It’s remarkably resonant stuff, especially when it’s painted with a $55 million budget and acted with the kind of skill a cast with Tom Hanks, Sally Field, Robin Wright Penn, and Gary Sinise will give you. When people watched “Forrest Gump” in 1994, they saw parts of themselves, and heard the kinds of uplifting messages that have always sold tickets in droves.
Don’t look now, but “Gump” turns 15 this year, and to celebrate the occasion, Paramount has made it part of the studio’s Sapphire Series of deluxe Blu-ray reissues, adding a full disc of bonus features to a gorgeous hi-def transfer. Unlike a lot of early ‘90s films, “Forrest Gump” doesn’t look its age on Blu-ray – partly a function of the budget that went into the original film, and partly due to the fact that it’s a really well-lit movie, and therefore not as susceptible to issues with brightness and contrast, but mostly a result of the clearly significant resources that went into this reissue. Watch enough Blu-rays come out of the archives, and you start to get a feel for where the corners have been cut – and there aren’t any here. It was always a good-looking movie, and watching it at 1080p doesn’t necessarily provide any revelations, but if you love “Forrest Gump,” you need to see it like this.
You’ll also want to see the numerous well-made bonus features, most presented in HD. Disc One includes the requisite commentary tracks (from Robert Zemeckis, producers Wendy Finerman and Steve Starkey, and production designer Rick Carter), as well as “Musical Signposts to History,” an interactive look at the 40-plus songs chosen for the soundtrack. But it’s Disc Two that holds the mother lode, including an inside look at the production’s long South Carolina location shoot, a look back at “Forrest Gump’s” long journey from novel to screenplay, an analysis of the techniques used to create the movie’s incredible special effects, and a 15-minute featurette about Michael Conner Humphreys, the boy who played Forrest during his childhood. There are hours of added content in all, quite a bit of it newly assembled; for the “Gump” fanatics who have been pining for this reissue, these bonus features provide multiple films’ worth of new information and deepened perspective on a movie so thoroughly absorbed into the cultural lexicon that such things didn’t seem possible. If all Blu-ray releases were this thoughtfully assembled, the home video market would be in much better shape right now.