Run, Judge Christopher Kulik, Run!
Our review of Forrest Gump, published September 3rd, 2001, is also available.
"My mama said life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you're going to get!"
Forrest Gump was the sleeper hit 1994. The story of a sweet simpleton who goes through a series of extraordinary episodes was a critical darling, sweeping up six Academy Awards. Of course, with the massive cult following of that year's competitor The Shawshank Redemption—which didn't get a single Oscar—it's become a matter of debate if Gump truly deserved all the gold men. I must confess I haven't visited the picture since its theatrical release, while Shawshank has whirled in my DVD player at least a dozen times.
Comparisons aside, does Forrest Gump hold up after all these years?
Facts of the Case
We meet Forrest (Tom Hanks, Angels and Demons) sitting on a park bench in Georgia, waiting for a bus. He decides to make conversation with several others who sit down next to him. Through flashback, we learn of Mrs. Gump (Sally Field, Mrs. Doubtfire) and her determination to protect young Forrest, after his father went on "extended vacation." Despite his limited mental capacity, Forrest meets a pretty girl named Jenny (Robin Wright, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee), whom he would eventually fall in love with. While Forrest would eventually become a college football hero, an honored soldier in Vietnam, and meet no less than three Presidents, he will always feel a void in his life due to the absence of Jenny.
Revisiting Forrest Gump on Blu-ray was a truly magical experience. What ultimately makes the film rewarding is Tom Hanks, who is so disarming in the title role, he's simply unforgettable. His gentle nature, kindness and indomitable spirit are warm and contagious. By the time the film is over, you practically miss Gump. Robin Wright is absolutely lovely as Jenny, even if you can't help but have contempt for her character. Gary Sinise is a quiet revelation as Lieutenant Dan, and Sally Field—in one of her last major screen roles—is solid as always. Kudos must be doled out to director Robert Zemeckis (Back To The Future) and screenwriter Eric Roth (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button) for telling Gump's story in an offbeat and compelling way, with surprises coming out left and right.
Still, Gump doesn't quite reach greatness due to one major flaw: the third act. Why doesn't the ending emotionally soar like it should? There are many moments throughout which tug at your heartstrings—like when Gump tells Jenny "I may not be smart, but I know what love is"—that it's curious why Roth settled for a conclusion which was merely comfortable. It's a nice ending, but there's simply no resonance to Gump's story. It's a shame, too, because Roth is such a rich storyteller (as he's proven time and time again) and one of the finest screenwriters next to Alvin Sargent and Cameron Crowe. This is part of the reason why Shawshank is superior, because Act III in that film is ten times more powerful.
Those who love the film will be pleased with Paramount's Blu-ray presentation, the newest release in the "Sapphire Series." Consumers will have a choice, between the 2-disc set and a chocolate box gift set. The latter contains a scratch-n-sniff chocolate board, a commemorative photo book, and a feather bookmark. As for the A/V quality, the only word which comes to mind is flawless, as the sheer beauty of Gump is enhanced and amped-up to the zenith. The 2.35:1 AVC MPEG-4 code is free of dirt, specks, and any other debris. The vivid colors never bleed or smear, and the flesh tones are perfectly natural. Although Paramount has taken some heat recently for their Gladiator Blu-dip, high-def junkies should have no complaints here. The praise extends to the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, with Alan Silvestri's amiable score appropriately filling your speakers. Background noise is kept to a minimum and environmentals are delicately treated. All in all, Paramount's Blu-treatment is exquisite.
Many of the extras are ported over from the 2001 release, although there is a welcome inclusion of new material. Among the older features (which are all on the second disc) are screen tests, plus separate pieces on the makeup, sound design, production design, and visual effects. Disc One has two audio commentaries, one with Zemeckis, producer Steve Starkey and production designer Rick Carter, while the other is a solo track with producer Wendy Finerman. There is enough information to make them worth a listen for die-hards, but the amount of silence on both is more than noticeable. The other extra on Disc One is "Musical Signposts in History," a featurette which looks at the film's soundtrack; the piece is hosted by Ben Fong-Torres (of Rolling Stone fame), but we also get input from Zemeckis via archived footage. This is a worth a look, but somehow feels undernourished. All the new extras are presented in HD.
Disc Two kicks off with "Greenbow Diary," which is a 25-minute, behind-the-scenes look at production. Punctuated by archived footage from Zemeckis, Hanks, and others, this is a fascinating look at the filmmaking process. Next is "The Art Of Screenplay Adaptation," where we meet novelist Winston Groom and how he went about composing a draft before Roth came onboard. Groom talks about how proud he is of the film and how he was perfectly fine with the changes from the novel. Another screenwriter, Stephen Schiff (Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps), chimes in on how screenplay adaptation is much more difficult than developing an original idea. Veterans of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) stop by to discuss the groundbreaking visual effects in "Getting Past Impossible." I've always found the altered "meeting the Presidents" footage hard to swallow, but this piece is nonetheless interesting in how they accomplished it. Actor Michael Humphreys, who played Forrest as a young boy, figures in "Little Forrest," talking about his experiences. Finally, my vote for the best of the new extras is "An Evening With Forrest Gump," a Q&A with Zemeckis, Hanks, Roth, and Sinise recorded at USC April 2009. Running nearly an hour, this feature is highly infectious, full of information and stories.
Forrest Gump may not be a perfect film, but it has been treated with loving care on Blu-ray, with a generous helping of bonus features to swim through. Now, if only Paramount will give the same attention to their other Best Picture winners, like Ordinary People and Terms Of Endearment.
Paramount is found not guilty for a gorgeous Blu-ray, while Forrest is free
to keep on running across America.
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