The movie Forrest Gump begins with the main character, Forrest, sitting on a bench holding the children’s book “Curious George” and telling his life story to a woman. The story goes from present to past as most of his life is shown as if it were occurring, then returning to Forrest telling his story to an ever changing series of listeners.
He begins his story when he meets Jenny on his first day of school. She is the only one who is nice to him and it is clear by this point the character is slow in some way, causing the kids to make fun of him. The plot often allows the audience to see Jenny’s life as it runs parallel to Forrest’s until they reunite towards the end.
Forrest gets into college on a football scholarship and is sent to Vietnam after graduation. In Vietnam he meets a man named Bubba who convinces him to go into the Shrimp business with him after the war is over. During an attack, Forrest saves many of the men in his platoon although he doesn’t get to Bubba in time, and he is killed. Forrest is awarded the Congressional Medal of honor.
While recovering from being shot, Bubba discovers his amazing talent at ping pong and begins competing against the Chinese world champion. He reunites briefly with Jenny at an antiwar rally. She has been living as a hippy.
After the war, Forrest receives a large sum of money for endorsing ping pong paddles and invests it in a shrimping boat. After Hurricane Carmen his boat is the only one surviving, and he begins to make a fortune selling shrimp aided by his former commanding officer, Lt. Dan. The Lieutenant invests Forrest’s money an Apple computers and Forrest becomes financially secure for the rest of his life.
Jenny returns to find Forrest and he proposes to her. She refuses but the sleep together before she leaves. Feeling upset, Forrest decides to go for a run and ends up running across the country and back several times without ever stopping over the course of three and a half years, becoming famous. Having seen him on T.V. Jenny returns, informs Forrest that he has a son and that she is ill and they get married and return to Alabama. Jenny dies soon after they marry. The movie end with Forrest waiting for the bus with his son on his first day of school.
Of the many reviews of the movie Forrest Gump, two stand out. Roger Ebert, noted film critic reviewed the movie shortly after it came out. From the beginning of this review, it is clear that Ebert will be providing a mostly positive critique. Although knowing that every good reviewer is bound to have both positive and negative things to say about a movie, by the end of the second paragraph, Ebert has set up the feeling that this is not just a good movie, but somehow it is an important movie. He states”
The screenplay by Eric Roth has the complexity of modern fiction, not the formulas of modern movies. Its hero, played by Tom Hanks, is a thoroughly decent man with an IQ of 75, who manages between the 1950s and the 1980s to become involved in every major event in American history. And he survives them all with only honesty and niceness as his shields. (p. 1)
Without the first line perhaps the paragraph might be seen to be setting up either a positive or negative review however, the first line seems to suggest the reviewer admires the plot and manner in which the plot is told by stating that the movie is true more to modern fiction in depth and intricacy, something that is not in line with what appears to be the standard way movies at the time are constructed, according to the reviewer, as if they are based on a formula.
Ebert goes on to say that trying to categorize the film by titles such as heartwarming are too limiting for the grand scope of the movie. The reviewer feels that above the plot is an examination of the times in which it was filmed presented from the viewpoint of a man who takes things as they come. Instead of focusing on the characters low IQ, the reviewer seems to believe that it is more his naivety and lack of cynicism that allows the audience to process decades of highs and lows through real news clips.
Ebert also praises the actor Tom Hanks who plays Forrest Gump, stating he believes him to be the only actor who could have played the role convincingly. He believes that actor managed to mix laughter and sadness to make the character believable and three dimensional.
He further praises the use of the character of Jenny to provide a counter balance for Forrest. While Forrest goes through the major event of the times as a “straight arrow,” Jenny takes the audience on the tour of events seen from the viewpoint of the counter culture. Ebert concluded his review by saying that when these two characters come back together after covering all the major events of the era from both sides it is bigger than the two of them. Ebert considers the reunion a “reconciliation for our society.” Ebert’s last line sums up his opinion, “What a magical movie.”
The other review that is notable is by the New York Times reviewer, Janet Maslin (1994). It is unclear whether the reviewer feel positively or negatively about the film at the reviews beginning. Maslin focuses on the special effects used to portray the character as part of major historical events. While complimenting the technical aspects of the movie, the reviewer goes on to suggest that there seems to be no logical or other reason for showing the character as part of history. This reviewer also believes that this movie is not a garden variety romance however, as opposed to Ebert, states it is more of a coffee table variety movie focused on special effects instead of a quality dramatic presentation.
Maslin does agree with Ebert on the quality of the performance provided by Tom Hanks. She also believes that he is the only actor who could have successfully played the role without making it seem condescending. However, after brief mention of the actor, the reviewer returns to the topic of technical effects continuing to negatively evaluate the movie as basically nothing more than the historical scenes strung loosely together with an attempted plot that does not successfully unify these scenes. Maslin also suggests that the numerous hit songs and costumes overwhelm the narrative in places such that they detract from any continuity which might exist. She continues expressing a negative opinion of the film by stating that the two main female characters of Jenny and Forrest Gump’s mother have not substance and are used primarily as a vehicle to show a variety of costumes.
Maslin finishes her review with a statement about Sally Field’s portrayal of Gump’s mother, suggesting that, “Like everything else about Forrest Gump, she looks a little too good to be true.”
Comparing the two reviews, Ebert’s presentation of the movie while overall extremely positive seems to be a fair and balanced evaluation of the movie. Maslin seems pre-occupied only with the use of the historical scenes and the technical aspects of the film, missing other significant points which Ebert picks up on and explains for the reader. Ebert’s review is also better justified with examples from the movie compared to Maslin’s review. I find Ebert’s review more believable and realistic and based on his comments would recommend the movie highly.
Ebert, R. (1994). Reviews: Forrest Gump. Roger Ebert.com. Retrieved from
Maslin, J. (1994). Forrest Gump (1994). Film Review; Tom Hanks as an Interloper in History.
New York Times. Retrieved from