Forrest Gump Book vs Movie Review

written by Laura J.

Forrest Gump by Winston Groom (1986)

Forrest Gump directed Robert Zemeckis (1994)

This is a book vs movie topic that was requested by Ryan, as well as Shelby from longdogbookreviews.

Forrest’s childhood

In the movie I’m not sure if Forrest’s dad left them, or if he died (I’m thinking he left them). But in the book his dad had died when a ton of banana’s fell on him and smashed him. Honestly that detail right there, which we are told early in the book, basically shows you what the rest of the book is like. It reads, “…the bananas fell down on my daddy an squashed him flat as a pancake. One time I heard some men talkin bout the accident—say it was a helluva mess, half ton of all
them bananas an my daddy squished underneath.”

In the movie his mom is a very strong character who is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure Forrest lives a good life and makes sure he is raised knowing he is just as good as anyone else. In the book his mom is around here and there, but she isn’t the same strong presence. It seems like she is always described as crying and in the end she is impressed at all he has acheived and says, “I am so proud of you—doin so good an all for bein [an idiot].” So she is proud of him, but it seems like unlike the movie, she hadn’t thought he would amount to much.

 In the book Forrest is actually a savant, whereas in the movie he just seems to have autism or something. In the book Forrest is also a very large and tall boy/man. He references Of Mice and Men in the book at the start, and I was often reminded of that book while reading this one. (Check out my Of Mice and Men book vs movie!)

Forrest also has leg braces has a kid in the movie, but this wasn’t in the book.

In the movie, his mom makes sure he goes to a regular school but in the book, he went to a special school for kids who had disabilities of some sort for part of his school years.

Jenny

He meets Jenny when he is a kid,and in the movie, they are friends throughout all of childhood, into high school years. In the book they meet when they are in first grade, but they don’t have a consistent friendship.

In the book there is a part when they are in their later high school years and he tells him mom about having a crush on Jenny. She calls up Jenny’s mom, and they have Jenny go on a date with Forrest. They go to the movies and Forrest is laughing at scenes that aren’t meant to be funny, and Jenny is embarrassed so she keeps scooting lower and lower in the seat. Forrest thinks she is slipping off the chair so he grabs her to lift her up, but this somehow causes her dress to rip and she is exposed. It becomes this whole scene, and cops show up and Forrest is arrested.

Later we get a scene like in the movie when Forrest sees Jenny in the car with someone and opens the door on them while they are getting hot and heavy.

In the book they go to the same college, but in the movie, she was going to a women’s college but the two of them keep in touch.

In the movie, Jenny had been abused by her dad when she was a girl and throughout the movie, she is a damaged person trying to figure life out. During college she is in Playboy in her college sweater, and then is kicked out of school and becomes a performer at some kind of stripper place. None of this was in the book. Jenny had not been abused, and while she does become a hippie and is trying to find her way in life, she is never depressed and suicidal to the extent she is in the movie.

College football

In both he ends up playing college football. In the book he starts playing football in high school because he is so big, but in the movie, he just happens to run onto a football field during football practice and they are impressed with his speed.

In the movie he graduates college and plays football the whole time. In the book he flunks out of college and so they just have the one semester of him playing football. While in college is when people realize he is a savant because they have him in this really difficult physics type class because the teacher has a deal with the coach to give him a good grade. But then Forrest actually gets it and does really well. It is his more normal classes like English that he fails.

In college is also when he meets Bubba, and then they reconnect again in the Army. Whereas in the movie he meets him in the Army.

In the movie, his team meets with the president because they were so good and when he shakes hands with JKF he tells him he needs to pee. In the book, this happened when he was in high school. It was some awards ceremony and it was a big deal, but it wasn’t with the president. He can’t unzip his pants because they are stuck, so his coach tells him he needs to hold it till the ceremony is over and they can rip his pants. So when he goes up to gets his award he tells the person he needs to pee.

This becomes a reoccurring thing in the book where whenever he is in these big deal situations, all he’ll say is “I need to pee.” Later in the book he even runs for senate and “I need to pee” inadvertently becomes his slogan.

Vietnam

In both, after his stint in college he goes into the army. In the book he is drafted, I’m not sure in the movie though.

He ends up going to Vietnam and while over there his friend Bubba is killed. In both, while going to rescue Bubba, he rescues others as well but in both gets shot in the buttocks.

From here he goes to a hospital in Vietnam to heal.

Lt. Dan

In the movie, Lt. Dan was his leader in Vietnam and he is one of the people he rescued. Lt. Dan is angry at Forrest for saving him because he had to get his legs amputated and wishes he just would have died.

In the book, Forrest doesn’t meet Dan until he is in the military hospital. Dan is there and has all kinds of injuries, but he is a nice guy and very thoughtful. He ends up leaving because his injuries are so bad they need better care. He leaves Forrest a very kind note which ends with him saying, “When I think back on it now, there is something in your eyes, some tiny flash of fire that comes now and then, mostly when you smile, and, on those infrequent occasions, I believe what I saw was almost a Genesis of our ability as humans to think, to create, to be.”

Forrest meets up with Lt. Dan at a later point in the movie and he is still bitter and an alcoholic. However, when Forrest gets a shrimp boat, Dan comes out to be his first mate and the two of them end up being successful. Dan ends up making peace with God and with his place in the world. In the end we see he has titanium legs and is engaged to be married and in general is in a much better mental and emotional state.

In the book, he starts out pensive and kind, however years later Forrest meets him when Dan is homeless on the streets of Washington DC. In the book he lost his legs as well, and after getting back home he was fired from his teaching job, his wife divorced him, his house was robbed, and he became a homeless alcoholic. He still wears his medals from the war and he tells Forrest, “They remind me of something. I’m not quite sure what—the war, of course, but that’s jus a part of it. I have suffered a loss, Forrest, far greater than my legs. It’s my spirit, my soul, if you will. There is only a blank there now—medals where my soul used to be.”

But as far as the book goes, I am going to wait and wrap up what happens with Dan later in the video.

Movie events

After Vietnam, in both he plays ping pong and goes to China with the Army to play there. After he is discharged is when the book and movie events really start to differ. In the movie, after ping pong he starts the Bubba Gump shrimp business with Dan.

He is with Jenny at various points, and he sees her with an abusive boyfriend in Washington, and later she comes to see him and he tells her he loves her. They have sex, but then she leaves the next morning.

He then just decides to run one day and runs basically nonstop for three years. He then gets a letter from jenny and when he goes to see her, he sees she has a son and she tells him it is his son. She also tells him she is sick and dying. The two of them are married, Jenny eventually dies, and we see Forrest raising his son in the end of the movie.

Book events

In the book, Forrest also goes to China to play ping pong and while there we get a scene where he saves the leader of China from drowning which isn’t in the movie. He then meets up with Jenny after the war and she is in a band. Bubba had got him into playing harmonica in college, and so he joins the band. He and Jenny become a couple at this point, but then Forrest starts smoking weed and one day Jenny sees him with two girls who are fans of the band trying to get with him and he isn’t stopping them. Jenny gets upset and leaves.

He sees Jenny in Washington DC though and she is still upset but asks him if he will join in their anti-war protest by throwing his medal on the ground. He agrees, but when he throws his medal, it accidently hits some politician in the head and he is arrested.

They say that since he is so smart in his savant way, instead of serving a sentence, he can go to NASA and go into space.

He then is sent into space with a woman and an orangutan named Sue, but who is a boy.

The spaceship crashes, and they end up in New Guinea being captured by cannibals. They are there for like four years, and Forrest is taught chess by the chief. Since he is a savant, he becomes a great chess player. Forrest always beats the chief, and he knows that once the chief beats him, they will eat them.

But eventually, the cannibal tribe is killed by this tribe of headhunters, and from there they are finally rescued by the US. However, the woman has fallen in love with a guy from the cannibal tribe and decides to stay behind, and Sue decides to stay too since he is free there. By the way, while living with the cannibals, he and Sue become good friend and have a way of communicating. Which I get monkeys are smart, but they are able to communicate so well that Sue relates to him his life story which just seemed to take things too far in my opinion.

Forrest returns to the US, and while there he meets with the president, and then this is when he meets Dan again.

The two of them track down Jenny who is working at a tire factory. From here, he and Jenny are in a relationship again and Forrest ends up becoming a wrestler and Dan his manager.

Jenny doesn’t like him wrestling, but Forrest is stubborn and the money is too good. He also likes hearing people cheer for him.

In the end, they mess up with this final match he was supposed to throw, and while gone, Jenny had packed up and left. She wrote Forrest a note explaining that she kept telling him she was at the end of her rope but he wouldn’t listen and so she had no choice but to leave. She also says that she is ready to settle down and live a calm life, but that Forrest doesn’t seem to share that desire. Dan had read him the note and then we read, “Dan handed the note to me but I let it drop on the floor an just stood there, realizin for the first time in my life what it is truly like to be a idiot.”

After this he and Dan part ways because Dan feels bad for contributing to Jenny leaving. Forrest then becomes a chess champion and while in the tournament in LA, is cast in a movie alongside Raquel Welch. They have a weird scene in which she ends up naked and they go to find a store to get clothes. While in Hollywood he also ends put being reunited with Sue who had been captured and sent to Hollywood to be in movies.

From there, Forrest and Sue head back east. He finally starts Bubba Gump shrimp, except in the book he farms shrimp and doesn’t have a boat.

He becomes crazy rich and hires a ton of past friends to work for him. One guy he hires is a professor he had known at Harvard (which was this whole other story I didn’t even mention) but he says the guy was fired for molesting students so Forrest hired him. Like what? Why did that detail need to be included.

He then runs for senate; however, his opponent brings up stuff from his past that ruins his chances.

The end of the book

From there, he gets tired of the shrimp business but leaves it in good hands. He and Sue then kind of becomes drifters and he will play his harmonica on the street and get money. He then adds a keyboard and eventually becomes a one-man band. During this time he runs into Dan who is still leaving on the street. The three of them pair up and they just kind of wander around. During one of his street performances he sees Jenny with a boy. He talks with her and turns out that is his son, she is married now and the guy is a good husband and father but she had wanted Forrest to know he had a son. Forrest sends money to Jenny after this and they write letters, but she stays married ot the guy she is with.

Forrest just stays this drifter kind of guy and just spends his days hanging out with Dan and Sue. He tells us in the end, “I done bought a bicycle with two little sidecars for Sue an Dan to ride in, an ever Sunday we peddle down to the
river an set on the bank an go catfishin. Jenny writes me once ever month or so, an sends me pictures of Little
Forrest. Last one I got showed him dressed up in a tinymight football suit. They is a girl here that works as a
waitress in one of the strip joints an ever once in a wile we get together an ass aroun. Wanda is her name. A lot
of times, me an ole Sue an Dan jus cruise aroun the French Quarter an see the sights, an believe me, they is some
odd-lookin people there besides us…”

This felt like such a fizzle of an ending to such a wild book. Like what?? And why even have him have a son, but then he isn’t even in the son’s life.

Changes from book and movie

The movie takes is through US history while telling us Forrest’s experiences, but the book it isn’t showing us historical events, it is just one wild, random experience after the other. We see Vietnam in both, and in the book, Forrest is outspoken about being against the war which wasn’t the case in the movie really.

In the movie, when he meets his son, he is concerned about whether his son is “smart” or not and Jenny assures him he is very bright. In the book Jenny tells Forrest when she found out she was pregnant while with him, she was worried he would end up being an “idiot” but is relieved to find out he isn’t. The scene in the movie when he asks her about him is one that a lot of people get choked up at, so I thought it was interesting that in the book he doesn’t ask that but rather Jenny shares that she was the one that was worried about it.

In the movie his mom dies, but in the book his mom helped him run Bubba Gump. Also, in the book Bubba’s family played a more active role in the shrimp business and so they got part of the money, whereas in the movie he gave them money in Bubba’s honor even though they weren’t part of the company.

The book just has a kind of silly vibe to it, and while the movie can be silly it has more of an emotional core I would say. I mean especially with the ending. The ending of the book was just so lackluster and kind of depressing.

Book vs movie

This book was very readable, I finished it in just two days, and I found it entertaining and quick enough that I think I will read the sequel. The sequel seems interesting too because I read he based it off of the movie ending. It had touching moments, but for the most part it was pretty ridiculous. There were multiple times when a woman is exposed, and the part with Raquel Welch sounded like some weird stress dream you have when you are naked in public. There was also a part in space when the male orangutang grabs the woman astronaut. Before that happened, I could sense the writer might go in the direction of the monkey molesting the woman because the writer thought it would be funny and was dreading have to read that. But what actually happens is the monkey garbs her and it says he has her hand down her pants, but it is because he has to use the bathroom. So, he wasn’t molesting her, but trying to get them to know he had to pee? While it wasn’t as bad as I fear it would be, it was still weird.

The book also has a lot of racial slurs about the Vietnamese people as well as black people in America again with the tribe in New Guinea.

The movie isn’t a favorite of mine, but I also don’t hate it the way some letterboxd users do. You can tell the generational difference with this movie because on IMdB there are so many 10 stars ratings from people who were online 10, 15, 20 years ago writing these reviews. But then on letterboxd, which is popular for the younger generations, there are so many 1 and 2 star reviews! I actually hadn’t realized how much dislike there was for this movie until I saw that! But I kind of get it. One reviewer (who didn’t leave a star rating) said, “…the message is pretty simple. Jenny’s hates her country, protests it, and it punished for it. Lieutenant Dan believes in and is willing to die for his country, but his country doesn’t care at all. You’ve gotta be a stupid idiot who never questions anything, who falls in line working for the system, and only then will you be rewarded.” In the movie we see that Forrest is great in the military because he just always does what is said, but this isn’t the case in the book.

The movie also doesn’t take a stance on anything. In the book, Forrest openly says that war was crap while in the movie we never actually hear Forrest’s opinion because the mic cuts out. We don’t see his opinion on much at all about the historical events happening around him. He, and the audience, witness so much yet the film never seems to have much of an opinon on any of it. I was going to say he is a passive viewer, but that wouldn’t really be true because he does go to Vietnam after all. I think this movie could (and probably has) been deeply analyzed and you could dissect the meaning behind each of the events in his life. What I am saying about it may be a surface level opinion but if someone has a deeper look at it all, maybe they could get me to change my mind. Going back to the letterboxd review though, maybe Forrest just going with the flow and succeeding is the message of the movie-don’t be a disrupter and just do what your told but also don’t expect life to work out the way you want.

And I am in the crowd that thinks Jenny deserved better. Did she really have to die? Come on, her life was hard enough and yeah she gets peace in the end. But I think having her die was too much.

In the end though when it comes to which one wins, the general consensus agrees that the movie is far better. And even though I actually did like the book well enough-yes, it is weird and wild and the ending is very disappointing-I will say, along with the others, that the movie wins. Ryan, who requested this, said he hated the book but loved the movie. He also said he listened to the audiobook so that may have contributed to his dislike for it. I read the book so I can’t comment on what hte audio is like. So, if you also love the movie, probably best if you skip the book on this one.

Mice and men