On July 6, 1994, Paramount unveiled Robert Zemeckis‘ Forrest Gump in theaters. The Tom Hanks satire would go on to win six Oscars at the 67th Academy Awards, including best picture. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:
Forrest Gump is not stupid. Although his IQ is 75, he sees the world far clearer than most. Through his decent, childlike eyes, we too see things in a less confused and muddled way. In this cheerfully straight-arrow moral tale, Tom Hanks stars as the “wise fool” Forrest Gump and delivers yet another Oscar-level performance. Paramount will win sensational box office with this Robert Zemeckis-directed film.
Raised in the ‘50s in rural Alabama by a single mother (Sally Field), Forrest, being “different,” must fend for himself, struggling against not only perceived expectations but boyhood bullies. He unwittingly finds that he’s blessed with a talent — he can run like the wind, which wins him a football scholarship to play for Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama. And there’s no stopping him after that.
An uplifting saga about one young boy’s earnest and good-natured attempts to overcome his disabilities, Forrest Gump is also a cheeky social satire of the past 40 years of U.S. social-political history. Eric Roth’s screenplay, adapted from Winston Groom’s novel, nimbly intertwines Forrest’s life with the seminal social events and players of the past several decades. Unassuming Forrest, with his golly-gee enthusiasm and inbred decency, encounters the likes of Elvis, George Wallace, presidents Kennedy through Nixon, Dick Cavett, John Lennon and Abbie Hoffman as he graduates from ‘Bama, fights in Vietnam, competes in international ping-pong, founds a shrimping company, engages in philanthropy and jogs cross-country.
Contrasting Forrest’s unassuming innocence with the upheavals and rancor of the times, the film is a wisely goofy commentary on the stupidity of smartness.
While Forrest’s foray’s into the dens of the big and powerful are cheekily amusing, the film ambles along over a deeper, darker layer: Forrest’s love for his childhood girlfriend, Jenny (Robin Wright). An abused child, Jenny’s life path is a desperate wander to find solid ground. She falls prey to every social movement and fad of the times; unlike Forrest, whose unwavering strength and sense of right and wrong protect him from being caught up in social slides, Jenny’s genuflections reflect her lack of firm values and inner confidence.
To some extent, one could argue that Jenny symbolizes most of us. If any criticism might be leveled at the film, it is that its most heart-wrenching moments are too adeptly skirted, but, then again, that’s in keeping with Forrest’s strength. Highest praise to Zemeckis, who has reached a higher maturity plane with his gracefully, technically eloquent direction.
Carrying his torso in an erect, straight-arched manner, Hanks’ body language is all-telling. With each strange or perplexing situation, Hanks erupts with the smallest twitch or turn, signaling Forrest’s deep-seated disapproval or, in special other cases, his gleeful, thankful wonderment. Mykelti Williamson, as Forrest’s simple-minded G.I. buddy, is also outstanding, while Gary Sinise is sympathetic as Forrest’s bitter platoon leader, legless after the Vietnam War. — Duane Byrge, originally published on June 29, 1994.