Back in 2014, before we had COVID or Trump or Brexit to talk about, the news included the revelation that footballer Michael Owen had only watched 8 movies in his life. He helpfully listed them on Twitter (“#HateFilms”) so we decided to review every film Owen has ever seen (as of 2014) – apart from Seabiscuit because we draw the line at horse movies. Oh and we’ve already reviewed Rocky (Owen called it “rubbish” but later watched all the sequels). First up, Forrest Gump, which in fairness ought to make anybody hate films.
Robert Zemeckis’ 1994 disability comedy won 6 Oscars including Best Picture (beating Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption) and Best Actor, despite Tom Hanks giving his most bizarre performance this side of Cloud Atlas when he played an orange gangster, if you can imagine such a thing.
His comic acting and the disconcerting drama sit as awkwardly alongside each other as Forrest and the parade of unsuspecting bystanders who join him on the bench until they realise they can leave. Gump continues his ridiculous story oblivious to the fact that each new benchwarmer has no idea what he’s talking about. 6 Oscars.
The story itself is a whistle-stop tour of 20th Century American history seen through the eyes of the Christian right, like 20th Century Fox News. Through a combination of clever digital effects and ropey audio dubbing we see Forrest meet various presidents and pop stars (Zemeckis stops just short of sticking him on the Moon, saving that for Contact), all of whom die soon after coming into contact with him as though he’s some sort of Trump rally.
The movie celebrates Forrest’s ignorance while using Robin Wright’s character as a punching bag, strongly insinuating that she needs to be saved from her life of liberal debauchery by an infantile patriot. His conservative lifestyle yields random fame and fortune as hers (spoiler alert) leads to her death from AIDS. Like Being There without the satire, Forrest Gump indulges the curiously prescient American fantasy (see also Big) of the woefully underqualified stumbling into positions of influence. They could do a sequel where Forrest runs (run Forrest, run!) for president and holds a press conference in a carpark.
Scenes in which Forrest excels in the military and writes John Lennon’s Imagine come across as accidentally mocking, implying that the army is for fools and the lyrics to Imagine sound like the work of someone with an IQ of 75 – the most satisfying takedown of a lyric since Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off was found by law to be too “banal” to claim as her own.
When it’s not clumsily insulting the military or exploiting tragedy (both real and imagined) for misjudged sentimentality, Forrest Gump attempts to make cute plot points out of suicide, assassination and abuse. Zemeckis’ insistence on documenting Forrest and Jenny’s (Wright) love life feels like watching Mr. Bean having sex, and her continually taking advantage of him resembles an Adam Sandler version of The Elephant Man.
Schmaltzy, unpleasant and misogynistic, this tonal nightmare and conservative manifesto is everything wrong with ’90s cinema for 2.5 painful hours. It may have the unique distinction of launching a seafood restaurant (unless you count Toy Story‘s Pizza Planet at Disneyland or the Nil by Mouth Bar & Grill – ok that one doesn’t exist) but if the shrimp is anything like the film, it’s out of date and will make you sick.