Ohh…so this is where the idea of Robin Williams as a motor-mouthed maniac came from. Interesting.
I have a long list of movies I’ve never seen before but want to and only know one thing about them (in this case, Robin Williams screaming, “Gooooood morning, Vietnaaaaam!”). Sometimes, when I actually do see them, I’m pissed off at what I got. And other times, such as with Good Morning Vietnam, I’m pleasantly surprised. That’s rare for a movie. Especially one starring Robin Williams.
Let me start by saying that, as a comedy, Good Morning Vietnam falls flat on its face. Don’t get me wrong. At the time it was released, I’m sure Robin Williams’ manic impersonations were a hoot. But today, to a new viewer who knows Robin Williams as that guy who can be serious when he wants to be, but usually plays a goofball, this movie’s not that funny. Sure, it has its chuckle-worthy moments (mostly from the characters who aren’t Robin Williams), but as a whole, it’s not a great comedy. Good Morning Vietnam kind of sucks in the humor department. I don’t care what AFI says. AFI’s wrong. It’s not funny. So there.
But as an interesting time capsule and a view of Vietnam before it went straight to hell, it’s kind of awesome. Robin Williams plays real-life disc jockey Adrian Cronauer, but this is not a biopic. Instead, it’s strictly Hollywood. Events like Williams having his truck blown off a road didn’t even happen to the real Cronauer. It’s a shame Hollywood went the comedic route. I would have liked to have seen Cronauer’s real story. It sounds interesting. Instead, we get scenes of Robin Williams doing minutes of impersonations, and none of them are funny. Williams is at his best when he’s just shooting the shit with Forest Whitaker, who plays Private Garlick, or when he’s building a relationship with a young man named Tuan, who has an explosive secret that he’s hiding from Williams’ character. It’s these details, and the quick shots of Vietnam life put to music, that make Good Morning Vietnam a delightful little period piece. That period just happens to be set during one of America’s greatest conflicts, and this movie benefits from that.
I can’t get over those scenes with Robin Williams doing improv on the radio. It really dampers the film. You can tell that the director, Barry Levinson, thought Williams was God’s gift to comedy back in 1987 with how much time he gave Williams to improv. After a while, it sounds like an episode of Family Guy making fun of Robin Williams. But then you remember, no, this is really him, and you just have to sit there and wait it out. It's quite painful.
Overall, though, Good Morning Vietnam has aged better than it should have. Sure, Robin Williams feels dated (but he feels dated nowlove Vietnam films -- you owe it to yourself to see this movie. It’s a different perspective on the conflict, and it’s one that still resonates. Check it out if you haven’t seen it already.
The disc, while not as loaded with special features as I would have preferred, still packs a few goodies that really complement the film. In “How the Movie Came to Be,” “Actor Improv,” and “Music of the Movie,” there’s a production diary that features the director, the screenwriter, and some of the actors discussing what it was like making a film about Vietnam. It’s colored with keen insights on everything from shooting in Thailand to the rock music that went into the film. The history is what really matters.
Adrian Cronauer himself also makes an appearance in the “Origin of The Good Morning, Vietnam Sign-On.” In this feature, he basically talks about how Hollywood really didn’t follow his life story at all and totally let Robin Williams go wild with the project. Cronauer doesn’t seem upset about it, so why should I? “Raw Monologues” features more of Williams going ape-shit with his impersonations, and then an original theatrical trailer and teaser trailer round out the special features. Like I said, it could have been better.