Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump (1994)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Tom Hanks, Sally Field, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Featurettes, Trailers, Screen Tests, Still Gallery, Production Notes

It seems now, more than ever, the world needs simplicity. To be able to see through the clutter, the corruption, and the superfluous complexities of life – its events and their contrived meanings – would be a gift to be cherished. Forrest Gump is a character that has been granted such a gift – a man who lives by a simple credo of honesty, good nature, and belief in the goodness of others. His is an unsullied vision of the world in which he lives, a perspective for which he is to be envied. Now, Paramount Home Video presents the world according to Gump in the gift-like "Forrest Gump: Special Collector’s Edition," the first 2-Disc release from Paramount that allows viewers to fully experience this special character and the special team that brought him to us.

Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) generously bestows his story from a park bench, imparting his beliefs and experiences upon anyone who takes a seat next to him. He is a simple man – one might call him a simpleton considering his I.Q. of 75 and "slow" manner – who would appear to exist as nothing more than the local town idiot if not for the unshakable foundation of faith his mother (Sally Field) has in him, in his abilities, and in his God-given right to the same education and opportunities as everyone else. But as fate (or is it destiny?) would have it, Forrest’s life would be one overflowing with opportunity and good fortune as evidenced through his becoming a college football hero, a decorated Vietnam veteran, a world Ping-Pong champion, and a millionaire businessman. Along the way, he has brushes with the likes of Elvis Presley, George Wallace, Abbie Hoffman, John Lennon, and three United States Presidents. Of course, the only acquaintance that deeply moves and motivates Forrest through his life is that of his childhood sweetheart, Jenny (Robin Wright).

Though simple and innocent at his core, Forrest serves as a "hub" in life around whom events and lives tend to circle. With his keen observations and untainted statements of the obvious, Forrest delivers simple answers and insight to the trials and tribulations of overcomplicated living. His girl, Jenny, determined to experience all the successes (and excesses) of this world, lives precariously on the edge, seeking fame as a folk singer, diving deep into the counter-culture of the 60s, drifting through the superficiality of the 70s, finally hitting rock bottom near the dawn of the 80s.

Perhaps more poignant is Forrest’s impact on his Vietnam commander, Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise), who seeks a different destiny: dying a war hero like his forefathers. Yet, in the horror of battle, Forrest boldly saves Lt. Dan against his commander’s wishes and remains devoted to him as he copes with life as a cripple and in perpetual conflict with society and with God. And while both Jenny and Lt. Dan feel cheated and betrayed in the lives they lead, both ultimately come back to Forrest, acknowledging his unfailing resolve and elementary wisdom that has somehow pulled them all through Hell and back.

I can’t say enough about the overwhelmingly touching and heartwarming aspects of "Forrest Gump." While I’m not typically taken in by ‘feel good’ movies – seeing how many succumb to sappiness or speak to only a limited segment of society – this film is different. This is a smart film, well scripted, and magnificently delivered in entertaining, believable, and thoroughly refreshing style. And, from the practically unparalleled performances (Hanks and Sinise are simply brilliant) to the incredible production design and digital effects, it’s little wonder the film scooped up six Academy Awards (including Best Picture) for its efforts.

Paramount presents "Forrest Gump" in a pleasing <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfer that preserves the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The source print curiously exhibits a bit more flecks and scratches than I might expect from such a "new" film but never to the point of becoming distracting. The colors are rich and true with flesh tones looking very natural though you should expect to see a bit of shifting in color temperature to reflect the wide range of time periods covered throughout the film. Blacks are deep, providing wonderful shadows without becoming overly dark or obscure. Detail is excellent throughout the presentation though there are a few brief moments when edge enhancement is apparent. All in all, a very nice and visually satisfying presentation.

The sound is presented in a <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 mix> that varies throughout the film but appropriately so, accurately keeping in step with the on-screen events. The surrounds and sub-woofer get a mighty workout during the Vietnam sequences with the establishing helicopter shot providing quite an audible jolt. The various song cues sound great, again delivered at varying levels appropriate for prominently punctuating or subtly underscoring a sequence, not to mention Alan Silvestri’s moving orchestration that emanates beautifully from all directions. By and large, though, expect the audio to be contained to the front channels with the dialog always clear and easily understandable. There is also a French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround mix included.

Paramount really comes through in the area of extras. To start, you’ll find two running commentaries, one featuring assembled comments from Director Robert Zemeckis, Producer Steve Starkey, and Production Designer Rick Carter. The information they provide is truly interesting and revealing. The second commentary, interesting though a bit sparse, comes from Producer Wendy Finerman. But it’s Disc 2 that really delivers, packed with over two hours of documentaries, featurettes, screen tests, trailers, still galleries and production notes. While all content on this disc is definitely worthwhile, I’d especially recommend the production featurettes, which generously explain and demonstrate the key digital effects and makeup design. The featured documentary, "Through the Eyes of Forrest Gump," is a promotional piece developed at the time of the film’s theatrical release, which, though it belies a certain amount of pitch, is informative and enjoyable. Overall, be prepared to spend quite a bit of time with this second disc as its nearly as compelling as the film. As a final note, I’m equally impressed with the option to view the extras with English or French subtitles – a nice consideration by Paramount.

Like a book you can’t put down, "Forrest Gump: Special Collector’s Edition" offers so much to see and experience. The cornerstone, of course, is the film itself, which draws your attention and compels you to continue watching, eager to see what might happen to Forrest next, which, in this context, is a boundless realm of possibility. It is a rejuvenating feast for the heart, mind, and soul that, although presented over the span of two-and-a-half hours, seems to move by quicker than you might wish. As for me, I watched it in a single sitting and, when it reached the end, I played it again . . . "for no particular reason a’tall."