Now here’s a fun title to say out loud, “Good Morning Vietnam!” Just shout it, it’s great. There have been plenty of war comedies like “Stripes” and “M*A*S*H” but “Good Morning Vietnam” is something very different. You could call it a comedy but you could also categories this as a war drama too. If you’re a fan of Robin Williams than this is film you have to see. It’s easily one of his greatest performances, (he got an academy award nomination for it) perfectly balancing the line between side-splitting humor and real down-to-earth emotion. Almost like he represents what the film is ultimately about, focusing on the dramatic realism of a war and at the same time keeping you entertained and giving you plenty of laughs along the way.
As you’d expect by the title, the film is set in Saigon during the Vietnam War and is loosely based on the experiences of the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) radio DJ named Adrian Cronauer (played brilliantly by Robin Williams). In the film, Adrian is called in to be a radio DJ to entertain troops while they head out to battle. He’s completely full of joy, making jokes even when he gets into trouble and he loves beautiful women. He makes friends with a Vietnamese boy named Tuan, pursues a small relation with his sister and he teaches a class of elder people. Most of this film is spent with this man simply bringing joy into the lives of others and even bringing new perspectives into the lives of others, a simple plot but it’s done very well and there’s always something going on to hold your attention.
With Robin Williams behind the microphone, you never get the same joke repeated, it’s something new a fresh every time. Director Barry Levinson wanted him to sound like a regular radio DJ with no scripted lines, so most of what he says while on air are were all improvised, which further demonstrates his talents. I could honestly watch him do this all day, he’s just such a joy. He’s already been very talented with improvised comedy and if you see his stand up performance then you never see the same show twice, so it’s really a role that was just meant for someone as talented as him. I also like how there’s no direct parody on war subjects and concepts like in the other war comedies I mentioned earlier, all the laughs come from this one talented comedian alone.
Now while Robin Williams is very funny, there is still a lot of drama in this film and plenty of really down to earth moments. There’s also a lot of clever contrasts thrown in this film too, for example there’s a scene when Adrian plays Louis Armstrong’s song “What a Wonderful world” on the radio and it’s set to a montage of scenes showing the brutally tragic events that are happening in the Vietnam war, it’s as profound as it is depressing. The film also portrays all kinds of basic conflicts in human nature, there’s a lieutenant named Richards who’s jealous of Adrian’s talent and try’s to cover it up by stating that Adrian is disrespectful. The latter conflicts between Adrian and his new friend Tuan are the strongest parts of the film but I don’t want to spoil too much. Overall, it’s one of those rare films that brings you a lot of joy and laughs while also giving you something really strong and down to earth. I know I’m not really reviewing much in this post but it really is one of those films that you should just experience for yourself. I give “Good Morning Vietnam” 4 stars.