I first read Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump in the late ‘80s, and it was immediately one of my favorite books. I found it incredibly funny and original, and I’d never read anything quite like it.

So when I heard Hollywood was making a movie based on the book, I was excited.  If they do this right, I thought, it could be one of the funniest movies ever made. Then I heard that Tom Hanks was starring. Okay…but Forrest in the book is a big hulking guy, more of a Randy Quaid type.  But I like Mr. Hanks, and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it anyway, so I hoped for the best.

For some reason I didn’t see the movie in the theaters, but it got sterling reviews, and everyone I knew who’d seen it loved it.  So I rented it on VHS when it was released.

Talk about disappointment.  Granted, the film is technically well-done.  And it beat out Pulp Fiction for Best Picture, so that’s impressive.

But where’s the humor? In the book, Forrest has dozens of hilarious adventures: he’s a professional wrestler (named “The Dunce”), an astronaut in space with an ape and a cranky woman (who gets hit in the face with a glob of floating ape pee), in a movie with Raquel Welch (he’s costumed as a monster), a harmonica player in a band with Jenny, stranded on an island with cannibals…in addition to his adventures in the movie.

And two major differences, the first of which is minor, the second, not so minor.  The book’s phrase is “life ain’t no box of chocolates,” which, to me, implies that life is rough.  The altered phrase “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get,” implies hope once in a while.  Okay, a little feel-good is fine.

But I what bugs me the most is Jenny. At the end of the book, she’s fine. No dramatic tear-jerking AIDS death.  In fact, she’s never even sick. The screenwriter, Eric Roth, chose to kill her off for cheap pathos.

Now think of the core moral of the movie: hard work makes you rich; drug-using hippies die of AIDS.

So thanks, Hollywood.  You took what I feel is a modern comedic masterpiece of literature and made it a Republican’s wet dream.