Forrest Gump

Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson, and Sally Field

"Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea.  You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it.  Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo.  Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried.  There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich.  That- that's about it."
-Benjamin Buford "Bubba" Blue (Mykelti Williamson)

There are some movie anniversaries that make me feel older (not old), and 2014 seems to be full of them.  Whether we're talking about the 10th anniversary of Spider-Man 2 or the 25th anniversary of Batman, I'm not exactly feeling like the youngest guy on the block when I realize that the films with which I grew up are no longer the new releases on the block.  One anniversary that's hit me particularly hard is the anniversary of Forrest Gump.  I fondly remember the wild adventures of this running man.  From college football to Bubba Gump's Shrimp, Forrest etched his place in cinematic history as one of the all-time great movie characters some 20 years ago.

Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) has lived an eventful life.  According to his mama (Sally Field), stupid is as stupid does.  Sitting at a bus stop in Savannah, he plans to tell anybody who will listen about the stupidly great things he's done.  The Alabama native begins with his birth in 1944 and talks about his youth wearing leg braces.  He then talks about his football career, his time in the service during Vietnam and a host of other adventures.  There are two recurrent themes in his adventures.  Forrest does a serious amount of running all over the globe.  He also can't escape his love for the girl with whom he grew up — Jenny (Robin Wright).

With a film as iconic as Forrest Gump, there's so much to say.  I know I'm long-winded, so I'll refrain from writing a novella on the movie.  What I will say about the film is that it's a fantastical adventure from director Robert Zemeckis filled with the best kind of movie magic.  To borrow a phrase from our titular character, this movie is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you're going to get.  This includes an engaging and endearing narrative from Robert Zemeckis that chronicles the collective history of the Baby Boomers in the mid-20th century, a career-defining performance from screen legend Tom Hanks, and terrific supporting performances from his fellow co-stars.  Forrest's tale is a real southern delight with immense heart.  Moreover, Forrest Gump stands as one of the great films of all time.

Robert Zemeckis gives us one incredible ride as Forrest runs from bullies, on the football field, through Vietnam, to ping pong championship glory, and across America and back.  Laced with a healthy dose of humor, unbelievable adventure, and a compelling romance tale, Zemeckis weaves this decades-long story together on one thing and one thing alone — emotion.  Now, he creates or amplifies this emotion via various cinematic techniques.  This includes a majestic score that underscores Forrest's phenomenal tale, creative use of archival footage and old tunes to evoke nostalgia, and the expert use of the background and scenery to create a sense of grandeur in pivotal scenes.  Here in Forrest Gump, Robert Zemeckis certainly does the best with what God gave him.

As our main character, Tom Hanks gives one of the great performances of his career.  He gives the slow-witted Forrest Gump an indelible charm that just makes everything click.  Whether at war or dealing with his unrequited love for Jenny, Hanks's Gump is somehow still an utterly cheery, polite guy who sees all the beauty in the world.  Despite his limited intellectual capacity, he's this noble, sometimes heroic character whose moral compass is always pointed north.  This earnest role is something in which Hanks can truly shine.  There was arguably no one else in Hollywood with a signature happy go lucky disposition that could bring the magic that Hanks does.  It's his brightest performance in a career full of them.

If Forrest has a soul mate (not named Bubba), her name is Jenny.  For her part as Jenny, Robin Wright offers us an emotionally complex character with no self-respect or self-worth but immense beauty.  Wright's Jenny knows that Forrest loves her.  She even loves him too, just not as much.  Time and time again, she abuses that love and sends a message to her childhood love that they're not just like peas and carrots.  At the same time, she doesn’t go for guys who will treat her as well as or better than Forrest has.  She walks right into abusive, hurtful relationships with open eyes again and again.  It certainly doesn’t help that she inflicts plenty of pain on herself by abusing drugs and alcohol.  Moreover, Wright simultaneously gives Jenny a certain warmth and a certain chill that makes her character perhaps the most interesting of all in the film.

The supporting cast does an outstanding job as well.  As Forrest's mother, Sally Field brings a unique blend of toughness and maternal instincts that make her one lovable mom.  Delivering plenty of quotable lines also helps to elevate her performance.  For his part as Lieutenant Dan Taylor, Gary Sinise delivers one self-destructive platoon leader who makes it clear with plenty of caustic wit that Forrest is a thorn in his side.  As the film progresses and Dan develops a symbiotic relationship with Forrest, Sinise scales back the vitriolic commentary and delivers some pretty potent scenes.  Lastly, we have Mykelti Williamson as Benjamin Buford Blue, also known as simply Bubba.  For his brief time on camera, Williamson offers us a character almost as endearing as Gump himself.  He brings quite a bit of charm and wit to the film that only elevates the film.  It's no wonder these two are best friends on camera, and that Bubba Gump Shrimp is such a wild success.

Forrest Gump is a magical film that remains as enchanting as it was two decades ago.  With beautiful direction, smart production, and unforgettable performances, this now-classic film wholeheartedly gets a sober rating.