Occasionally, I'm incorrect - it happens. Such was the case in 1994, when I started reading reviews for this "Gump" film, with Tom Hanks. It was getting excellent reviews and, after I eventually saw it, I felt "that was pretty satisfying". I certainly never thought that the film would go on to do what it did, though. Weeks after its opening, the film was still going strong at the box office. Forrest ran himself all the way to 673,800,000 dollars worldwide, not to mention untold fortunes in tie-ins and video (and now DVD) sales.
"Gump" is a movie that could have fallen either onto the side of being way too sappy or way too over-the-top, but thanks to Hanks in the title role, the movie works better than it would have likely done with any other actor. Forrest is born to a Southern woman (Sally Field) who protects his dignity and doesn't acknowledge his reported lack of IQ ("stupid is as stupid does"). When Forrest gets the corrective braces off of his legs, he runs...and runs...and runs.
Although Forrest runs with incredible speed using his legs, it's his heart that steers him along in his course across history. Forrest finds himself in Vietnam, finds himself in the midst of several historical events and even becomes a ping-pong champion. Yet, throughout all of the years and all of the ups and downs, Forrest has been really chasing the love of his live, Jenny (Robin Wright-Penn).
One of the most impressive things about "Gump" is not only its terrific performances, but the superb screenplay, which flawlessly jumps from time to time, tying things together with a present-day narration from Forrest sitting on a bench, talking to folks passing by. There are a few stretches in the second half of the nearly 2 1/2 hour picture where it does begin to drag, but for the majority, the performance of Hanks holds the attention, as does the general feeling of not being quite sure what's going to happen to Forrest next. I suppose I prefer to think of "Gump" as a picture that looks at the different decades through the eyes of someone without the ability to be cynical - to look at what happened through Forrest's child-like eyes. There are some people though, who tend to dislike the fact that the people around Forrest who have hopes generally don't make it, while Forrest, who doesn't really have any aspirations, falls into success.
Either way, I generally found "Gump" to be a success. A picture that could have failed and failed big-time, both Hanks and supporting cast (especially Sinese)have come together to make a very enjoyable picture that only rarely becomes a little melodramatic or sappy. In terms of the discussion about whether or not this film should have won several Oscars that year, I think the answer is actually no. Maybe in any other year, but up against both "Pulp Fiction" and "The Shawshank Redemption", I certainly thought "Shawshank" was a far better film and even "Pulp" was more impressive. It's been several years since I last viewed "Gump" though - it might have even been 1994 when I last saw the film - it still holds up nicely.
VIDEO: "Forrest Gump" is presented by Paramount in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Taken from a new high-definition master, the picture looks generally superb, but there's some concerns that I had with the image throughout the film. Sharpness and detail are excellent throughout the majority of the movie, with only a few minor moments of slight softness. Darker scenes still have a pleasant amount of visual information, but it's the gorgeous outdoor scenes that are most enjoyably well-defined.
There's a few problems to contend with, though. Although obviously the stock footage that Forest has been digitally inserted to are going to be grainy and somewhat worn, the picture has some print flaws otherwise. Although not displaying heavy wear, there are several instances where slight marks, speckles and the occasional scratch are visible. Edge enhancement is also occasionally apparent, but I didn't find it too noticable or bothersome. Pixelation is absent, with the exception of a couple of tiny traces.
Colors occasionally varied throughout the movie, sometimes looking subdued and sometimes looking vibrant, but always looking natural and with no instances of smearing or other problems. Overall, this is a great transfer with a few flaws that the presentation doesn't hardly suffer from. The layer change was notced at 1:09:46. It certainly was nicely placed, though and won't distract.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is rather inconsistent. Aside from several sequences that have the surrounds suddenly flaring up (the Vietnam sequence), the film remains mostly subdued and things fold-up to the front quickly after those intense moments. The score sounds superb and gets fine presence throughout the movie, as do the great songs of the era that are included.
The intense sequences of surround-use such as the Vietnam sequence aren't going to be confused with "Saving Private Ryan", but it's still very impressive sound-wise for a 1994 picture. Audio quality was quite good, with occasional strong low-end bass and a crisp, clear quality to not only the music, but the effects and dialogue. A little inconsistent, but still a fine presentation overall.
"Gump" sound designer Randy Thom also worked with Zemeckis again on 97's "Contact" and the pair of "Cast Away" and "What Lies Beneath" from 2000. His work on "Cast Away" was also Oscar nominated.
MENUS:: The animated menus involve the famous "feather" from the movie. Personally, I would have liked a little Forrest at the bottom of the screen who would start running when you selected to go to a sub-menu. The little Forrest would then run into the sub-menu with that "run, Forrest, run!" sound clip in the background. Oh well.
EXTRAS:: A note - it's nice to see that both English and French subtitles are included for the video supplements.
Commentaries: This is a commentary from director Robert Zemeckis, producer Steve Starkey and production designer Rick Carter. Although I was greatly displeased with Zemeckis's discussion of "What Lies Beneath"(not to mention the movie itself), I thought his commentary for "Cast Away" was suprisingly fascinating. This commentary comes somewhere in-between those two. Zemeckis delivers a wealth of information about the production itself, discussing the pre-production discussions that went on about how to visually take on the picture into the production itself and what obstacles were faced. Starkey discusses the actors and story details, while Carter talks about locations and set-design. Some of the comments start to become a little too story-specific and obvious, but there were many interesting passages that provide more detailed insight into how certain elements were achieved. Carter and Starkey are recorded together while Zemeckis has been recorded separately.
The second commentary was a late addition to the DVD and features producer Wendy Finerman. The producer offers several interesting stories about the making of the film, but the unfortunate part is that there are occasionally some very long gaps between comments.
Through The Ears Of Forrest Gump: Sound designer and supervising sound editor Randy Thom has worked with director Robert Zemeckis several times now. You can hear him on the commentary for the "Cast Away" DVD, where his discussions provide almost a "mini-school" for sound design. During these featurettes, Thom is interviewed about his role in the sound for several different scenes and takes the viewer through how sound was mixed and made for each of the scenes. The specific sections are "the bike", "crowds", "vietnam", "rain" and "ping pong".
Through The Eyes Of Forrest Gump: This is a 30 minute making-of documentary that was made around the time of the film's release. Although the first half is dominated by promotional discussion about the story and characters, the second half is more enjoyable, focusing more on the effects and other obstacles. Look for Hanks doing a few amusing impressions of Zemeckis.
Screen Tests: Screen-test footage is offered with Michael Conner Humphrey and Hanna Hall (young Forrest and young Jenny), Robin Wright (Jenny) and Haley Joel Osment (Forrest, Jr.). Young "Sixth Sense" star Osment's screen-test ends with him whispering to Hanks, "I see dead people." Just kidding.
Building The World Of Forrest Gump: Commentary participant production designer Rick Carter is interviewed here about discussing the look of Forrest Gump, going over the details of building sets and picking locations. This is an eight minute featurette.
Seeing Is Believing: Visual Effects: Visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston, who has worked with Zemeckis on several pictures, discusses in depth what had to be done for 11 of the major sequences that involved special effects. Focused on are "Birth Of A Nation", "Run Forrest, Run!", "Martin Luther King, JR.", "George Wallace", "Vietnam", "Ping Pong With George Bush", "Lyndon B. Johnson", "Enhancing Reality", "John Lennon With Dick Cavett", "Lt. Dan's Legs" and "Richard Nixon".
Magic Of Make-up: This is a 7 minute featurette that goes over the look of the characters and how the look of the characters was changed via make-up over the lengthy periods covered in the film. The film's make-up supervisors gives us a tour of how things were done and there are also some screen-tests of the actors in their make-up offered during the featurette.
Also: Photo gallery, trailer and re-release trailer.
Final Thoughts: I've always been able to appreciate "Gump", but I wouldn't consider it to be one of my favorite films. It works, though - thanks to Hanks, the supporting cast as well as fine direction and a good script. Paramount's DVD is their first 2 DVD set (hopefully the first of many!) and it's a fine effort, with great audio/video quality and interesting supplemental features. Recommended.
The Film *** 1/2
Video 89/B+ = (356/400 possible points)
Audio: 88/B = (352/400 possible points)
Extras: 86/B = (258/300 possible points)
Menus: 85/B = (170/200 possible points)
Value: 86/B = (258/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: *** 1/2
DVD GRADE: B