#177 Good Morning Vietnam

(1987, Barry Levinson)


Helloooooo everyone! It is a beautiful day here on Sven vs. The Movies, with the weather being tropical and the outlook looking good for the rest of the week. The reason it’s so tropical is because today we are in Vietnam with Robin Williams and doing some RADIOOOO for the good troops of the US Army.

OK, enough of that. Let’s get serious here. Good Morning Vietnam stars Williams as Adrian Cronauer, an Air Force man who is sent down to Saigon before the outbreak of the Vietnam War to work as an Armed Forces DJ. His irreverent style of humour and refusal to adhere to strict broadcasting rules put him at odds with his superiors, Lieutenant Stephen Hauk (Bruno Kirby) and Sergeant Major Phillip Dickerson (J. T. Walsh), but the other DJs and many of the troops love him, and his show becomes a major success. However, the controversy he generates, as well as his attempts to forge a relationship with a Vietnamese girl named Trinh (Chintara Sukaptana), threatens his future.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of Good Morning Vietnam, since I’ve never been a huge fan of loud radio DJs, and Cronauer initially gave off this impression. However, I warmed to the comedy pretty quickly and began to like the broadcasts that form the backbone of the movie. It’s also pretty obvious that Williams ad-libbed them all, and was having a blast doing so, and this enthusiasm really helps.

Outside of the radio broadcasts, however, Williams is fantastic. The movie isn’t all comedy, due to the setting and the conflicts he faces with his superiors, but he manages to develop a fine balance between the comedic radio broadcasts and the dramatic moments, and I’d put it alongside more recent thriller One Hour Photo (which is sadly absent from the list) as one of his best performances. It’s impossible to dislike Cronauer as a character because Williams turned him into a real and very likeable person (yes, I know he was a real person, but that’s not my point!)

The plot, for the most part, works well. The elements of drama that creep into the story never once feel like they intrude or are out of place; there’s a natural progression from the light-hearted radio shows to the more serious “war is hell” elements that come out of the conflict around them, and eventually they sit side by side effectively.

However, by the end of the movie, it rapidly runs out of steam. There’s a sudden revelation that’s barely given any screen time, and the final scenes feel a little tacked on. In fact, the movie as a whole doesn’t really end, it just sort of fizzles out without any real conclusion. Which is a shame because it felt like it was building up to something.

On top of this, I also felt that Cronauer’s attempts to win over the affections of Trinh seemed a little too awkward. Aside from looking way too young for him, there’s also little chemistry between the two and it’s hard to see why Cronauer is so determined to be with her. Scenes revolving around this failed relationship also tend to be the most awkward to watch, although it doesn’t feel intentional in the way some other awkward scenes are (e.g. Hauk’s attempts to do a funny radio show himself).

Overall, however, I enjoyed Good Morning Vietnam. Robin Williams was absolutely at his best and his improvised radio shows have great energy behind them and make the entire movie work despite its flaws. Not really the best movie ever made, but certainly watchable enough to recommend a viewing.

Starring Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Tung Thanh Tran, Chintara Sukaptana, Bruno Kirby, J.T. Walsh & Robert Wuhl
Written by Mitch Markowitz
Produced by Larry Brezner & Mark Johnson
Music by Alex North
Cinematography by Peter Sova
Edited by Stu Linder

Favourite Scene: Cronauer gives an impromptu live performance for a bunch of soldiers in trucks, reaffirming why he’s there
Scene That Bugged Me: At the end of the movie, as Cronauer is about the leave the country, he stops and plays softball with the locals, and it feels so out of place

Watch it if: You want to see the best Robin Williams performance
Avoid it if: You can’t stand comedy radio


Posted on April 19, 2013, in 1980s, Comedy, Drama, War and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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