Good Morning, Vietnam
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (7th February 2006).
The Film

Over the years there have been many starring vehicles some of which have failed while others wildly successful. A ‘vehicle’ is a term used in the movie world that describes a film which is tailor made for a particular star. It usually consists of a character and set-up that is best suited to exploit the actor’s strengths. Films such as Beverly Hills Cop (1984) for Eddie Murphy is a good example of a starring vehicle, others include School of Rock (2003) for Jack Black and See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) for Richard Pryor (and also Gene Wilder). Good Morning, Vietnam was exactly that for comedian Robin Williams and suited his brand of insane jabber and hyper personality. Sure he’d done several other films prior to this one, but none more suited directly for him than this, what better a character to portray Williams’ personality through than a radio disc jockey? Good Morning, Vietnam was a breakout hit for the comedian and basically made him a household name. While set in 1960’s Vietnam the film has a 1980’s feel about it, especially the comedy which is basically highlights from Williams’ own stand-up show re-tooled for this film. To add realism all of the on-air scenes were ad-libbed, that lends itself well to the scenes as it feels natural and un-scripted just like live-to-air radio show should be.
Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) an Air Force disc jockey gets shipped to Vietnam, his mission is to bring a new brand of humor to the morning radio show to help boost troop morale. But his brand of in your face humor doesn’t appeal to everyone, especially his superiors Lieutenant Hauk (Bruno Kirby) and Sergeant Major Dickerson (J.T. Walsh) who try and sideline him every opportunity they get. While in Vietnam Cronauer falls for a local Vietnamese girl Tuan (Tung Thanh Tran) and sees the true horror of war, but don’t let that heavy stuff fool you that was just added in because Williams doing near two hours of ad-lib funny stuff gets a bit tiring.
The script isn’t exactly literary writing at it’s best, the plot is thinner than wafer, the characters are about a cliché as one can get and ‘horrors of war’ stuff is so heavy handed you wonder sometimes what the filmmaker’s where thinking. But a story is still better than no story, besides you really have to look at this film for what it truly is; it’s not really an anti-war statement it’s a way for Williams’ talent to shine on the screen. It’s a true vanity project in very sense of the word, one that has aged unfortunately as most of the jokes generate a minor chuckle every now and then, while they probably would have caused hysteria back in 1987. I can only assume, since I never saw the movie when it originally came out because I was a youngster still playing with Star Wars toys and watching Masters of the Universe (1987) or The Transformers (1984) ‘R-rated’ films were not introduced to me until later in life. But judging from the fact that Williams received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor provides a small indication of the film’s popularity. Watching it today all I can say is that it’s quite weak and relies too heavily on Williams to carry the whole film when in reality a few minutes is all he can do, I don’t deny the genius of his comedy I for one think his Live on Broadway (2002) stand-up special is exceptionally funny. Like most other vehicles the lead actor has a sort of side kick that propels him from one scene to the next, in this one it’s Private Garlick played by Forest Whitaker who also provides some comic relief mainly as the kind-hearted oaf. He’s basically there to make Williams look good all the time but when the time comes, his character steps up in a big way late in the game and steers our hero back in the right direction. Good Morning. Vietnam has a simple story that’s fairly predicable, a collection of one-dimensional clichéd supporting players and a lot of Robin Williams talking trash and occasionally showing emotion but only when the script dictates. If you loved this film back in the day then you’ll probably still enjoy it, it’s an interesting look at the early days of the career of comedy’s hairiest man. Newcomers will likely get bored quickly, especially those used to the cruder comedies of today.

Video

Presented in the film’s original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, this anamorphic transfer is quite good for a film of its age although it could be much better. I found it to be quite flat, colors are well represented but aren’t particularly well defined. Sharpness isn’t entirely consistent but the image holds up well, with minor print flaws. It’s not the most striking transfer ever produced but it’s far from the worst and a major step-up from the previous bare bones release from several year ago.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included on this release both of which are Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks, one in English while the other is in French. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack. The dialogue is generally clear, after all this is mostly a dialogue driven film. There was some minimal activity in the surround speakers and usually relegated with the war aspects of the film. The track lacked depth, it doesn’t really immerse you in the experience but then again it’s a comedy film and for the most part the track suits it without being anything exceptional.
The film also include optional subtitles in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

First up is the Production Diary" this is basically a documentary split into 6 parts. You can access these segments in a sub-menu, and you can watch them individually or with the option of the ‘play all’ function. The segments of this documentary include:
- How the Movie Came to Be runs for 6 minutes 21 seconds and covers the genesis of the project, the real Adrian Cronauer also gives validity to about 45% of the film. The writers talk about the process and Williams’ input among other things.
- Actor Improv runs for 9 minutes 48 seconds, in this clip cast and crew talk about how a lot of the comedy that came from this film wasn’t totally scripted many scenes were improv including all the radio stuff as well as several other moments in the film especially those dealing with the Vietnamese that Cronauer was teaching English to.
- Music of the Movie runs for 6 minutes and covers the selection of music Cronauer plays on his show, which were all considered ‘inappropriate rock and roll', we also learn that the radio was used as tool by the army to boost morale and way for soldiers to forget where they are for a just a moment.
- Origin of the 'Good Morning Vietnam' Sign-on runs for 3 minutes 2 seconds, in this clip we learn about how the now famous sign-on call originated. Cronauer used it in Greece and then in Vietnam, he originally elongated the ‘good’ part of the call usually to buy time to select a record he was going to play.
- Shooting in Thailand runs for 7 minutes 38 seconds and takes a look at the challenges in shooting in Thailand, how many signs had to be changed to see the fact we were in Vietnam in the film, as well as dealing with the intense heat.
- Overview of the Film a Year Later runs for 1 minute 37 seconds and includes a few of the cast and a producer talk about how great it was making this movie, and that’s about it.

Next up we have the "Raw Monologues" this featurette runs for 13 minutes 9 seconds, the film’s director Barry Levinson basically introduces some raw footage of Williams basically improving a whole bunch of dialogue from the radio show, the footage is mostly uninterrupted and some of it is used in the film but there’s a fair bit in here that are basically alternate takes and additional stuff not seen in the finished film.

We also get the film’s original theatrical teaser which runs for 1 minute 31 seconds and includes Williams doing segments from the radio show dressed in Army Fatigues (footage that was shot for the teaser only). As well as that we also get the film’s original theatrical trailer that runs for 2 minutes 31 seconds.

Rounding out the disc’s extras is a collection of bonus trailers for:
- Annapolis which runs for 2 minutes 26 seconds.
- Flightplan which runs for 2 minutes 31 seconds.
- Shopgirl which runs for 2 minutes 20 seconds
- Piracy promo spot which runs for 47 seconds.
- The Greatest Game Ever Played which runs for 2 minutes 32 seconds.
- Chicken Little which runs for 1 minute 37 seconds.
- Cars which runs for 2 minutes 27 seconds.
- TV on DVD promo spot which runs for 1 minute 55 seconds.

The first 4 listed above play before the menu, however they can be skipped by pressing the ‘menu’ button on your remote.

Overall

Good Morning, Vietnam is a moderately funny film that features Williams breaking out in a role that would make him a house hold name. The film although dated may still appeal to those that originally saw it.
The DVD includes an average picture and sound quality and a handful of extras that leave a lot to be desired, perhaps future releases of this title (for the next generation video format) a commentary could be recorded.

The Film: B- Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: B Overall: B

 


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