Forrest Gump (Hanks) is short on I.Q. points but long on heart, a pure and simple soul who follows a straight path through the world, ever true to the homely advice of his mother (Field) - the source of guiding Gumpisms such as "Stupid is as stupid does" - and to his elusive lifelong love Jenny (Wright). He begins his serendipitous skirmishes with destiny in childhood by unconsciously giving ideas to the as-yet-unknown Elvis Presley, and goes on to become, unintentionally, a football star, war hero...
The charmed and charming life journey of an innocent tossed through three decades of America's turbulent modern history makes for an original and hugely appealing story. Its mesmerising potential only falters because director Robert Zemeckis' agility with ingenious special effects occasionally outpaces his narrative judgement, as it did in Death Becomes Her and, to a lesser extent, in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It is still his most emotionally satisfying work to date, though, and however mildly or sharply one is struck by its dramatic flaws, there can be few who would deny the film's entertainment value or the captivation of Tom Hanks' performance as the eponymous Gump.
State-of-the-art computer digitalised compositing enables Forrest to interact with Presidents JFK, LBJ and Nixon, pop stars like John Lennon and TV personalities galore, creating other illusions to quite astounding effect. Less successful is the strand throughout the film in which Wright's Jenny counterpoints Forrest's naïve plod - always following his heart and his inner voice of right-doing in a country losing direction - with her extended walk on the wild side through promiscuity, drugs and loss of belief. Overlong, the film begins to slide into a sentimentalised panorama of the times with distracting, though admittedly frequently hilarious, spectacles.
Yet, for all its mush and meandering, this is among the stand-out audience pleasers; Hanks outdoes himself in the loveable dolt department with unforgettable, utterly disarming work. Just as he recaptured boyishness in Big without resorting to cuteness, here he brilliantly portrays slowness and dumb doggedness without being patronising. Despite its flaws, this is simply unmissable.