"GOOD MORNING VIETNAM"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Robin Williams as ADRIAN CRONAUER
Forest Whitaker as EDWARD MONTESQUE GARLICK
Tung Thanh Tran as TUAN/PHAN DUC TO
Chintara Sukapatana as TRINH
Bruno Kirby as STEVEN HAUK
Robert Wuhl as MARTY LEE DREIWITZ
J.T. Walsh as PHILIP DICKERSON
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Directed by: Barry Levinson
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This must be the time of Robin Williams’ award films. Along with “Dead Poet’s Society,” Touchstone Pictures has released on DVD the other late-80s film for which Williams received an Oscar nom – “Good Morning Vietnam.”
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Although these two films helped turn Williams from a stand-up comedian into a serious dramatic actor, he didn’t win an Oscar for another seven years when he did “Good Will Hunting.” My personal opinion is that he was far better in these two earlier films. They’re both worth checking out again if you haven’t seen them.
At the time “Good Morning Vietnam” was released, American pop culture was trying to come to terms with the Vietnam War. Sure, there was “Apocalypse Now” in 1979, but the real glut of Vietnam films didn’t come out until the late 80s and early 90s. The biggest difference between “Good Morning Vietnam” and all the others is that this film used comedy to make its point.
Even while “M*A*S*H” was leaving the air as one of the most successful shows on television, the industry still seemed to feel you couldn’t do comedy during a war film. Director Barry Levinson and Robin Williams changed all that.
What resulted was a clever, smart and powerful film to juxtapose against movies like “Platoon,” “Full Metal Jacket” and “Casualties of War.”
The first time I actually saw “Good Morning Vietnam” was at a sneak preview long before I became a reviewer. It was double-billed with “Nuts,” a pretty decent psychiatric drama with Barbra Streisand and Richard Dreyfuss. It was probably the best night at the movies I had in a long time. Not only did I get two movies for the price of one, but they were both pretty good – in spite of Barbra Streisand.
Throughout my high school and college days, I was inundated with Vietnam in the popular culture. A lot of the stories got old and tedious, having seen it throughout television and movies for nearly a decade. However, my affinity for “Good Morning Vietnam” still stands.
Much of this is due to the fact that it is simply a well-made film. Instead of taking a “war is hell” stance, it looks at the conflict from a relatively safe point within. It manages to show the other side without vindicating the Viet Cong. Remarkably, it stays out of the politics of the fight and focuses on the soldiers’ needs.
Most of the people in my generation have a faulty view of who Adrian Cronauer was. Since we never listened to him on Armed Forces Radio Network, we don’t know what he was really like. Instead, we have a picture of him in our mind as Williams portrayed him.
The best section of this DVD is the production diary, which includes extended interviews with the real Adrian Cronauer. He dispels many of the fallacies of the film without harming the movie itself. It helps endear the film to me because if the real Cronauer is okay with the embellishments, why can’t I be.
Other features includes the original trailers and an extended uncut monologue sequence in which Robin Williams riffs through some of the news gags on the radio.
“Good Morning Vietnam” remains one of my favorite films about the Vietnam war because of its comedic take and ability to slip into real drama when needed. At the very least, it’s an uplifting film, which is rare in the Vietnam genre.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.85:1) – Enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French language track. English subtitles for the hearing impaired.