This isn't really a review, just a cut-and-paste of some comments I made on one of my class bulletin boards. In one of my classes, we are watching Forrest Gump, and I thought the students should know what I think of the film. Here's an excerpt from my comments:
I really detest this movie. I'm glad we chose it for class ... I think there are all sorts of interesting areas for discussion ... but I hate it. What do I hate about it? Many people see it as an inspirational story about a person overcoming handicaps to make a good life for themselves. I understand that reading of the movie, but it's not mine.
I see two very unfortunate things happening in Forrest Gump. First, I don't think the film stops with "look what a mentally-challenged person can accomplish." I think the movie goes much further than that. Forrest is basically a better person than everyone else in the entire world of the movie. And he's not just better because he overcomes challenges ... I would argue that the movie makes the case that Forrest is better because he's stupid. He's simple ... he doesn't fully grasp the socio-cultural meanings of life, he's just a simple guy with a simple outlook. And, in the world of Forrest Gump, that puts him closer to god. He understands just enough to get by ... god and good luck do the rest. The unstated opposite side of that philosophy is that intelligence is a bad thing, something that just complicates your life, pulls you away from god. I find this to be a very dangerous philosophy ... I am sure our leaders would love for us all to be as simple and accepting as Forrest Gump, but me, I think it's better that we utilize our intelligence to the fullest, in order to get more out of life. I don't think the film makers agree with me.
The other thing I really hate is the character of Jenny. Jenny is the anti-Forrest ... she DOES know what's going on, she experiences the cultural milieu first hand, and she is miserable. Eventually, she gets mortally ill ... before she dies (for all of her sins, which consist of partying and politicking), she sees the light and returns to Forrest. Basically, Jenny is punished for not being stupid, punished for actually engaging in the world (Forrest just gazes at it from the outside).
Furthermore, the film's trickery, whereby Forrest and Jenny are inserted into many famous historical events, demonstrates where the movie's sympathies lie. There is no such thing in the movie Forrest Gump as a reasoned political stance. Politics, like everything else that is "of the world," is for neurotics ... only stupid people like Forrest are touched by god. And so Jenny waltzes through the various social movements of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and all of them are treated exactly the same: Jenny's participation is related to her neuroses, she only takes part because her life is empty, and protesting the war in Vietnam is exactly the same as doing coke in the disco era, that is to say, a fad for screwed-up people, something you will dump whenever a new fad comes along.
So you've got a movie that treats political activism as serving the same function for neurotics that cocaine does, you've got a movie where the most likable character, indeed the most successful character in all aspects of life, is a stupid man who luckily doesn't really understand any of that silly cultural stuff. I believe Forrest Gump is an extremely reactionary movie that promotes the value of stupidity for the masses. I think it's one of the most dangerous popular films I've ever seen. I hate it.