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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his lovely wife, the writer Emily L. Stephens, and their cat, Cooper. When not watching all the movies ever made or digging up stories about the Maine film scene, he can be found writing for the AV Club and elsewhere. The rest of the time, he's worrying about the Red Sox.

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Posted: September 4, 2014

I hate “Forrest Gump”

Written by: Dennis Perkins
Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump,” which won the 1994 Best Picture Oscar. A well-deserved win? Dennis Perkins thinks not. Paramount PIctures photos

Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump,” which won the 1994 Best Picture Oscar. A well-deserved win? Dennis Perkins thinks not. Paramount PIctures photos

“Forrest Gump,” the 1994 Best Picture Oscar winner, came out 20 years ago this week. In honor of the big anniversary, the film is receiving something equally huge: a celebratory, nationwide victory lap of screenings at IMAX theaters (see the IMAX site for details). Finally, you too can see Tom Hanks as he was meant to be seen: 40 feet high!

I’ll be anywhere else.

Look, it’s not that I hate “Forrest Gump.” Oh, wait, yes it is. I hate “Forrest Gump.” There, I said it, and I’m glad. And since I haven’t been arrested for blasphemy, let me explain.

It’s not just that “Gump” is one of the most shamelessly mawkish films ever made. (Ohhh – a flock of birds fly behind Forrest at Jenny’s grave because she used to say that prayer about birds when she was little. Classic stuff, director Robert Zemeckis.) Or that there’s only one significant black character (Mykelti Williamson’s Bubba Blue), and he’s even dumber than Forrest, obsessed with shrimp and dies so Forrest can get weepy and steal his name for a lucrative seafood franchise. Or that Sally Field’s stereotypically crusty-but-loving mom character has a death scene that could give a healthy triathlete Type 2 diabetes. Or that it spawned the single most annoying and meaningless pseudo-profound catchphrase ever, and that said catchphrase was invariably repeated by everyone you knew in a horrible Forrest Gump impression. (It’s the one about a container of confectionery, and no, I’m not going to even write it out.) Or his unbearably stupid invention of the “have a nice day” smiley face. And while I love Tom Hanks as required by law, his one-note performance as the simple Forrest causes my eyes to glaze over after five minutes. No, my objections run a little deeper.

First, for a “feel-good heartwarmer,” “Forrest Gump” is awfully mean-spirited. For all those Gump-ian folksy homilies, the character of Forrest embodies the message that a true American is an unthinking, unquestioning square.

Robin Wright’s Jenny, the free-spirited, intellectually curious risk-taker who gets involved in civil rights and anti-war protests, finds herself the victim of the film’s idea of justice for such people – abuse, AIDS and ultimately death.

Much was made of Zemeckis’ technical wizardry in inserting Forrest into shots with real historical figures, but in almost every case, his presence serves to make “left wing” figures like Abbie Hoffman and John Lennon look stupid because they misinterpret Forrest’s blankness for agreement with their political statements.

Sure, I’m one of those lefty types, but an intellectually dishonest straw man argument is a lousy basis for your movie – even if you stick it in the mouth of a sweetly mentally challenged guy.

And then there’s the purely aesthetic argument which – c’mon – I think we can all agree on at this point. Some might say that 1994 was a down year for movies (and I grant you that any year the Best Picture nominees include the likes of “Quiz Show” and “Four Weddings And A Funeral” isn’t great), but I’m just going to throw two words at you: “Pulp Fiction.”

Oh, and here are some more, all released the same year: “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Chungking Express,” “Ed Wood,” “The Hudsucker Proxy,” “Il Postino,” “Amateur,” “The Secret Of Roan Inish,” “Crumb,” “Heavenly Creatures,” “Vanya on 42nd Street” and “Bullets Over Broadway.” Heck, I’ll even throw “The Lion King” in there.

If anyone wants to sponsor a 20th anniversary screening of any of those movies instead, let me know. I can be reached literally anywhere not showing “Forrest Gump.”

COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS

FRONTIER, Brunswick | explorefrontier.com

Wednesday-Sunday: “Frank.” Take one of the most famous and handsome actors around (Michael Fassbender, in this case) and stick him under a huge mascot head for the entirety of your film about a group of eccentric would-be rock stars playing odd, offputting songs. That, my friend, is how you live up to the label “indie film.”

NICKELODEON CINEMA, Portland | patriotcinemas.com

Sunday: “Duran Duran: Unstaged.” A documentary about has-been ’80s glam rockers Duran Duran, on the other hand, couldn’t sound less “indie.” Unless, as is the case, David Lynch directed the concert film?! I honestly have no idea what to make of this either.

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