For over three decades, funny man Robin Williams has enjoyed a very lucrative career. His reputation as a wild and erratic comedian has pushed him into superstardom and his talents even occasionally transfer over to dramatic roles. His first shift into drama was a smooth and almost seamless one. It occurred in 1987 with director Barry Levinson’s bittersweet wartime dramedy Good Morning, Vietnam. In it, Williams earned his first Academy Award nomination playing real-life military disc jockey Adrian Cronauer. This terrific film is now out on Blu-ray for its 25th anniversary and if you are a fan of Robin Williams or just good movies in general, then I highly recommend checking this one out.
It’s 1965 and the Vietnam War is in full swing. Times are tough and soldiers and civilians are dying. Things are looking bad in the land so the Army comes up with the idea of bringing entertainment to the troops. This entertainment comes in the form of Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams), a U.S. Air Force Airman who has been hired by the Army to provide disc jockey services which includes playing records and offering humorous commentary in between songs.
Cronauer is immediately liked by the soldiers who tune in. He even makes friends in the radio office. These friends come in the form of happy-go-lucky Private First Class Edward Montesquieu Garlick (Forest Whitaker) and wisecracking Staff Sergeant Marty Lee Dreiwitz (Robert Wuhl). Cronauer does however have some critics and they are his superior officers Second Lieutenant Steven Hauk (Bruno Kirby) and Sergeant Major Dickerson (J. T. Walsh). The conflict that arises between Cronauer and these two soldiers provides the bulk of the film’s plot.
Robin Williams is a comic genius. There’s no doubt about it. The man delivers humor like a machine. His portrayal of Adrian Cronauer is basically a portrayal of Robin Williams. He isn’t playing a character, he’s playing himself. Williams is superb when it comes to improv. Many of the scenes of him in the radio booth were improv and it helped take the film to a whole new level. With improv, the film seems real. The lines flow with spontaneity and enthusiasm. Williams earned his first Academy Award nomination for his brilliant performance but lost to the greedy Michael Douglas for his work in Wall Street.
The supporting cast of Good Morning, Vietnam is really spectacular. They all do an excellent job interacting with the manic Robin Williams. Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) is terrific as the likable Garlick. The late Bruno Kirby (City Slickers) is a hoot as Hauk, a square who thinks he’s funny when he’s really not. J.T. Walsh (A Few Good Men) is excellent as Dickerson, the main “villain” of the story. Rounding out the cast is the late character actor Noble Willingham who plays Brigadier General Taylor, a superior officer who supports Cronauer and thinks he’s a riot.
Director Barry Levinson (Rain Man) has given us a truly mesmerizing film here. There is a balance of humor and drama here that is absolutely astonishing. Viewers of this movie are certainly in for an emotional roller coaster ride. Robin Williams will make you laugh hysterically in some scenes and in others might make you want to cry. Good Morning, Vietnam is one damn fine movie. If you want to see Robin Williams at his best, then this is the film for you. Its Blu-ray release marks the 25th anniversary and if you enjoy quality cinema, then this the movie for you.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
The bonus features for Good Morning, Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition are pretty good. There is a production diary which contains information on how the movie came to be, actor improv, music of the movie, origin of the “Good Morning, Vietnam” sign-on, shooting in Thailand, and overview of the film a year later. There are raw monologues and both a theatrical trailer and theatrical teaser trailer for the film.