Monday, December 20, 2010

An Overrated Movie

There is a particular movie out there that is the tale of a simple man through the ragged landscape of twentieth century America. This movie does indeed have the ability to make us laugh and cry, but at the same time, it is incredibly overrated. Yes, I am indeed speaking about the delightful and occasionally wretch-inducing Forrest Gump!

Before you go all nuts – read my essay ‘In Defense of the Term Overrated’ to get a sense of the word itself, as this sort of builds on the theme.

It is true that Forrest Gump simply has gotten more adulation and praise than it deserved. Its rankings among the upper echelons of film and the Academy Awards it earned are also extremely ludicrous.

I’ll be the first to admit that I like the movie. It is a very good movie, but it is not a great movie. Tom Hanks did a good job as the title character, but it wasn’t necessarily an Oscar-worthy performance. In Hanks’ career, it wasn’t even in the top-3 performances he has had.

On one end, Forrest Gump is a collection of clichés. You have heard them – ‘Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get’. That’s it? That’s the ‘profound insight’ given to us? On the other end, the film perfectly represents America as the land where there are only two sides to every question. Personified within the two lead characters, you have Mr. Square (Forrest) and Ms. Perpetual Rebellion (Jenny).

The character of Jenny is one continuing cliché after another – the country girl who ‘grows up’ to become a porn-star, a hippie, a disco-doll druggie, and then finally ‘paying the price’ by getting what we are supposed to believe is AIDS – but not before she realizes the ‘error of her ways’ and settles down to marry Forrest. She is supposed to represent the ‘turbulence’ of America from 1965 to 1980, as if every single person in existence experienced this turbulence.  It truly is amazing that such a narrow existence has been projected onto the entire population.  Such is the power of media.

With Forrest himself, we are supposed to suspend our disbelief – after all, it was he who influenced Elvis to sway the hips and he who caught the Watergate burglars and inspired John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ (the worst song ever – but a different topic for another day), as well as provided the inspiration for the insipid yellow smiley face and the 'Sh*t Happens' bumper sticker. All from a guy who would be the village idiot, or, with the Ping-Pong skills, an idiot-savant.

You put all of this together, and it isn’t bad. But I want to know what is it that made it great. I just can’t see it at all. There are too many little things that chip away at the film to consider it one of the ‘greatest’ of all time. Forrest Gump – fine movie, worth having on the shelf, and even worth repeat viewing. But just not one of the all-time greats; quite the contrary – it is one of the most overrated films of all time.

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