David's Reviews > Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump by Winston Groom
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May 05, 10

Read in January, 2007

Forrest Gump

(This review is as much a criticism of the movie as it is of the book, possibly more so, in that the book was not quite the crock of mawkish drivel that the movie was)

Gosh, where to begin?

For starters, our boy Forrest has an I.Q. of 75. Played - apparently not much of a stretch - by Tom Hanks, on a natural stop along the career arc that took him from the simpering idiocy of Bosom Buddies to the affront to the intelligence that is The DaVinci Code.


You might reasonably ask what type of banality one should expect from a film with voiceover by someone with an IQ of 75. Well, this type:

"Life is like a box of chocolates"
"Stupid is as stupid does"
"We was like peas and carrots"

In the book, Forrest is an idiot savant; in the movie he's just an idiot. But a special idiot, apparently, one whose exploits include, but are not limited to
• Winning a football scholarship to the University of Alabama, becoming an All-American and meeting JFK in the White House
• Graduating college in 5 years (unclear how, exactly)
• Enlisting in the army, going to Vietnam and winning a Medal of Freedom, getting to show his wounded buttock to LBJ.
• Meeting Abbie Hoffman, John Lennon, Nixon, Dick Cavett.
• Becoming a ping-pong champion, traveling to China
• Meeting Nixon, discovering the Watergate burglars, triggering the Watergate scandal
• Becoming super-wealthy from his shrimp boat
• Becoming super-duper wealthy from a fortuitous early Apple investment
• Starting the jogging craze, the smiley button, the expression "shit happens", the fad for pet rocks, and anything else of cultural import during the 70's.
We are appraised of each of these events by Forrest's droning voiceover.

Throughout the malodorous mulligatawny of muddle-headed, meandering misadventures that constitute the “plot” of this mess of a movie, we are expected to believe that our slow-witted friend, by obeying orders and never questioning authority, passes through the 60's and 70's going from one success to the next, meeting with world leaders and presidents, leaving his Gump-stain on all the major milestones of the age.

For bathos, the tale of his lady-love, a hippie-stripper-peacenik-drug-addict-crazy woman, is interwoven - it's basically a downhill trajectory for her, culminating in the final indignity of succumbing to complications from AIDS, as one more desperate milestone is crammed in to the festering goulash of the plot. Before her final exit, we learn she has fulfilled her plot obligations by popping out a Forrest Junior, played all too convincingly by the nauseatingly cute personification of perky moppet-dom, Halie Joel Ozspawn.


Let's see, what's the message here? It seems to be that an idiot can not only survive, but prosper and excel, in the U.S. of A. An idiot can, in fact, be directly involved in every development of political or cultural significance in the U.S. over a two-decade period. We know this, because the idiot tells us so himself.

So here's the thing. This emotionally manipulative tapestry of implausibility was a huge success - both financially and critically. How could a string of ever-more incredible tall tales, narrated by a simpleton, end up being so universally acclaimed? I think there are two reasons, neither of which reflects particularly well on the movie, or on the public who gave it such a rapturous reception.
First, the fundamental message - idiot not only makes good, but becomes a huge success - is one which, however stupid, is enormously appealing to the American public. A society which is deeply anti-intellectual at its core, where accusing someone of being "elitist" is considered a major body blow, sufficient to shut down all further debate, is apparently all too happy to lap up the myth of the success of an imbecile like Forrest. Never mind that in real life, Forrest would end up soiling himself in the corner of whatever Dickensian mental home the state of Alabama had consigned him to.
Second, the moviemakers have made a very canny calculation, figuring - apparently correctly - that since the solipsism and self-obsession of the Baby Boomers knows no bounds, one recipe for success is to pepper the movie with scenes guaranteed to manipulate a Boomer recognition response. Thus, Boomers are given a double treat in this movie - they get to take a guided tour of the nostalgic highlights of their two most formative decades, in the company of an amiable dullard to whom they can only feel superior. What’s not to love?

Forgive me if I, for one, reject the implied message that obeying orders and unquestioning obedience to authority pave the way to success, in this, or in any decade. Because, no matter how charmingly the simpleton might peddle it, crap is still crap. And there’s no pony hidden in the steaming heap of manure that is “Forrest Gump”. It offends the intelligence.


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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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message 1: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Jerzy Kosinski did it first and best with 'Being There,' which is actually a raging satire about people who project their own wishes and desires onto a painfully slow person, and the movie with Peter Sellers is awesome.


message 2: by Yarb (new)

Yarb An easy target, but a deserving one, and you've struck it with aplomb. Bravo!


message 3: by Manny (new)

Manny I agree with Moira about Being There. Loved "festering goulash"!


message 4: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Manny wrote: "I agree with Moira about Being There. Loved "festering goulash"!"

D'you remember Shirley MacLaine in the movie? Yowza.


message 5: by Shenandoah (new)

Shenandoah Yes, very well-written, but I thought this was a forum for BOOK reviews...


David Oops, you caught me! :-)


message 7: by Will (new)

Will Someone pissed you off a while ago didn't they David?


David Aw, not really, Will. :-) In real life I'm a pussycat. But sometimes it's fun to engage in a little hyperbole in one's reviews, don't you think?


message 9: by Will (new)

Will haha fair enough my friend. well written and opinionated. Couldn't ask for anything more in a review :)


message 10: by Gary (new) - rated it 1 star

Gary I thought this book sucked..... but I loved the movie. Still do! This is one of the few times when I had said that the movie was much better then the book....I was so disappointed by the book, but I guess it gave the idea for a great , heartfelt movie......just sayin....


message 11: by Gary (new) - rated it 1 star

Gary I never said it was the best movie ever..... Being There was great, btw,and I for one enjoy,and side with the intellectual side of things, but the movie was just cute, fun,and yes, hit all the cultural things I remember growing up....and the music.....


message 12: by John (new)

John Musacha Yes, but what about the book? Your review was solely on the film! This isn't IMDB.


message 13: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Thanks for pointing that out. Did you read the first sentence of the review?

Maybe you should seek out a career in law enforcement.


message 14: by John (new)

John Musacha Thanks for your response. The first sentence of the review was "(This review is as much a criticism of the movie as it is of the book, possibly more so, in that the book was not quite the crock of mawkish drivel that the movie was)", not "This review is solely on the film, not the book."


message 15: by David (new) - added it

David I tried multiple times to read the book in original English but couldn't get through the textified (sp?) accent. I had no problem reading it translated into Chinese (and would give it 3.5/5 at least) but the accent really should've existed in the audiobook. It's not that I can't understand the accent once I heard it said by others (by Tom Hanks' portrayal or listening to other people with that accent, such as Cleolinda Jones whenever she's guesting in a podcast — also I'd like to pimp out her blogs if you don't mind), it's just that not speaking it myself I really don't have the brains to translate it fluidly as I read.


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