Forrest Gump (Box of Chocolates Edition)

Forrest Gump is finally going to be available on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, I didn’t get one of those to review; I got a repackaged two-disc DVD edition that contains all the same material from a previous release. Still, the movie is damn good, and the extras, while retreads, are decent. I guess this is all ok, is what I’m saying. Although considered by some to be a modern classic and a regular entry in top 100 lists of greatest movies, 1994’s mega-hit Forrest Gump has its detractors. They consider it empty headed or, even worse, conservative propaganda. Well, I’m not sure this movie would have a place in my top 100 these days, but it’s still a good movie.

Tom Hanks, naturally, carries the entire film as Forrest Gump, a dim-witted everyman who moves through the history of the 1950s to the 1980s, becoming famous and prosperous despite his lack of brains or determination. Like the famous feather that floats through the opening scene, Forrest moves on the wind and lives a pretty interesting life. I can’t make much more of the theme of the movie than that, but that’s enough.

As Forrest moves away from his Momma (Sally Field), who prepared him for life with catchphrases like “stupid is as stupid does” and “life is like a box of chocolates,” he becomes an All-American football player, a war hero, a ping-pong champion, a sort of folk hero, and a successful shrimp boat captain. It’s not that his journey has any particular larger meaning (other than maybe anyone can be anything in America), but it’s fascinating and well constructed nonetheless.

Screenwriter Eric Roth sends Forrest’s one true love, Jenny (Robin Wright), on a parallel but darker journey. Intelligent, beautiful, and free spirited, she ends up failing in ways where Forrest succeeds. Again, the meaning of this isn’t totally clear, but her story and Forrest’s devotion to her is a touching counterpoint to what could be a sickly sweet story.

In addition to pulling out crackerjack performances from Hanks, Field, and Wright along with Gary Sinise and Mykelti Williamson, director Robert Zemeckis shows technical brilliance by having Forrest interact with many real-life historical figures, including John Lennon, John Kennedy, George Wallace, and others. At the time, it was almost stunning how good it looked. Watching now, you can see that it doesn’t quite work all the time, but it was a bold stroke that helped sell the story of Forrest’s life.

Interest in Forrest’s life, as played by Hanks, is the key here. If you find it boring, stupid, annoying, or the like, the movie doesn’t work. If you want to keep watching to find out what happens, then everything else falls into place. While I can’t remember the last time before this that I watched this movie all the way through, it’s still fun, interesting, and emotional. Just don’t attach too much baggage to the “meaning.” I don’t usually spend a lot of time talking about packaging when reviewing a DVD or Blu-ray. I frankly don’t care much about the picture or the hologram or whatever is put there, I’m more interested in the content. In this case, however, I’ll take time to complain about the “Chocolate Box Giftset.” The package is the size and shape of a chocolate box. Clever, right? Not really. I was hoping the box would contain a standard box with the discs inside that I could put with my other DVDs and Blu-rays, but it doesn’t. So I have to store this chocolate box in a place designed to hold DVD boxes. Thank you very little Paramount Home Entertainment.

Just to finish off the box, you get a “chocolate-scented” piece of cardboard in lieu of actual candy and a collector’s booklet along with the two discs. The problem is, in addition to the size of the box, the material you get is exactly the same as a 2001 Collector’s Edition DVD that is still available for half the price. The new Blu-ray has tons of new material and the old DVD has this same material cheaper, so why would you buy this version…oh right, the chocolate-scented piece of cardboard.

Enough of the harping; what do you get if you buy this version? There are two commentaries, one by director Robert Zemeckis, producer Steve Starkey, and production designer Rick Carter, and a separate commentary by producer Wendy Finerman. The Zemeckis led group is informative, but my pet peeve of being unable to identify who is speaking makes it more like one super-knowledgeable person rather than three distinct persons. If you listen to both commentaries, you get a wide variety of information so a big fan would benefit. There is also the kind of commentary that I like best, which is taking things that might have multiple interpretations and explaining what the filmmakers were trying to say. I love that.

The commentaries are the only extras on the first disc. The second disc has quite a few featurettes, all repeats from the 2001 edition. The longest extra is a 30-minute documentary called “Through the Eyes of Forrest Gump.” Not only is it a repeat from 2001, it was filmed at the same time as the movie and probably released as advertising along with the film. So it is not a “look back” at the making-of the movie, but more people explaining their characters and the general idea of the movie. Kind of interesting in that way, but the perspective that time brings is missing.

The most interesting extra is “Seeing is Believing,” which shows how 11 of the special visual effects scenes (like Lieutenant Dan’s legs or a deleted scene of Forrest playing ping pong with George Bush) were done. It shows the stuff that is filmed in front of a blue screen and then how it was inserted into existing film. Not overly detailed (each segment only lasts about two minutes), but it has enough info to get the general idea. Very cool even for non-film-nerdly types.

In addition to the special effects stuff, there are three other featurettes on production, all lasting around eight minutes, one each for production design, makeup, and sound. The movie was so tech heavy that these are pretty interesting, and listening to people talk about make-up for almost 10 minutes isn’t as boring as you might think.

The set winds up with two trailers, a set of screen tests for Robin Wright and the child actors, and a photo gallery. No deleted scenes or bloopers or anything like that. Again, it matches exactly the 2001 release. The Blu-ray does include new material, so it is still the wiser choice. While I can’t fault the material here if you don’t have it, unless you really want the commemorative booklet and the chocolate scent, I’d suggest buying the 2001 version for less.