I only recently noticed that the biggest difference between Vietnam War movies and other war movies (WW1, WW2, American Civil War) is the humor. No one watches a war film hoping to get a good laugh, but surprisingly, the best three Vietnam War movies can be as funny as they can be serious, shocking, and disturbing. Platoon, Apocalypse Now, and Full Metal Jacket are all Vietnam War film masterpieces and are definitely not comedies nor dramedies, but the characters in these films have such entertaining dialogue and interactions, it’s hard not to laugh at times. The dialogue and the way the actors deliver their lines are so sharp and witty in these movies, they have been engraved into our minds. I can’t even think of any memorable dialogue from other war movies other than from Vietnam War movies. In the first half of Full Metal Jacket, no one can forget R. Lee Ermey’s sergeant who spat abusive insults to his soldiers. That character made Ermey’s film career. Even from the second half of Full Metal Jacket, there are memorable lines of dialogue that we kiddingly use all the time, possibly forgetting where they originated from, such as “Me love you long time” and “You talk the talk but do you walk the walk?” In Apocalypse Now, Robert Duvall’s Kilgore is full of juicy lines such as “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” and “What the hell do you know about surfing? You’re from goddamned New Jersey.” Even though these three movies are full of intentionally and non-intentionally funny lines of dialogue, the humor does not diminish the importance or seriousness of these war films. Furthermore, no one is trying to be funny in these three Vietnam War films. Good Morning, Vietnam is another Vietnam War movie that has humor, but brings it into the foreground rather than subtly blending it into the background. There’s nothing wrong or inappropriate with a Vietnam War movie that focuses on a disc jockey who wants to cheer up the troops with his unconventional and funny radio show, but the movie just did not emotionally impact me as it came to an end. The problem was certainly not due to its flawless acting. Robin Williams plays real-life disc jockey Adrian Cronauer who was based in Saigon during the mid-1960s. Cronauer was known to be a disc jockey that said “Gooood mooorning, Vietnaaaam” before the start of his show. That’s about it regarding historical accuracy. He did not actually fall in love with a Vietnamese girl nor was he friends with a Viet Cong guy. And he also didn’t have a problem with superior officers (played brilliantly by Bruno Kirby and J.T. Walsh) who tried to censor or obstruct his radio show. It’s a very exciting and interesting Hollywood-created story and there is nothing wrong that this movie is not a historically accurate biopic. The problem with the film is that the tone jumps all over the place – in parts, it wants to be a comedy and at other times it wants to be a serious drama. Just as in the other popular Vietnam War movies, humor and drama can work well together, but Barry Levinson struggles with making Good Morning, Vietnam work as an all-together powerful film. He does succeed in making it a highly rewatchable one though. The Deer Hunter and Born on the Forth of July are better Vietnam War films, but I could watch Good Morning, Vietnam more often than those two.
When I heard that Disney/Buena Vista was going to release this on Blu-ray, I didn’t have high expectations for a 1987 catalog movie to have gorgeous video quality. Since Disney decided to market this as a “25th Anniversary Edition,” I did expect to be somewhat impressed. The 1.85:1 1080p video quality turned out to be a tiny bit underwhelming. While the streets of Saigon, jungle, and other outdoor scenes look bright, sharp and have impressive colors, the use of DNR and edge enhancement don’t flatter faces at times. While certainly far from being compared to the waxiness of the faces on the second Blu-ray version of Predator (which was also a movie released in 1987), there are scenes where faces lack texture and I was sometimes distracted by Robin Williams’ face looking like a smooth tomato. Fortunately, the positives outweigh the negatives, and there are many times where the skin colors look natural and details look quite nice. The Blu-ray offers an overall pleasing but not impressive presentation of the film.
As expected, most Vietnam War movies have those awesome 1960s rock ‘n roll soundtracks. The DTS-HD 5.1 audio offered on this Blu-ray does not disappoint. Even though the classic rock tracks sound amazing, I had to sometimes jump to the remote control to lower the volume when the scenes switched from dialogue to music. The surrounds and subwoofer are mainly used for the music but other than that most of the movie uses the front speakers. For a dialogue-heavy film with Robin Williams shooting off rapid-fire lines of funny dialogue, I was happy that the audio was totally clear. The only times that I did not understand the dialogue was when Vietnamese accents were too strong, which is not the fault of the Blu-ray of course.
There aren’t too many extras, but the ones that exist are worth a look. I would have been more satisfied had this Blu-ray included a commentary, but the main extra – the Production Diary – was pretty interesting. I was happy to see that it included interviews with the real-life Adrian Cronauer who confirmed that the movie was nothing like his times in Vietnam.
– Production Diary (35 minutes)
– Raw Monologue (13 minutes of Robin Williams doing his radio shtick)
– Theatrical trailers
Good Morning, Vietnam could have been great and could have packed a more emotional punch if there was more time added into the film for more character development. Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Bruno Kirby, J.T. Walsh, Chintara Sukapatana, and Tung Thanh Tran all have their “Oscar-moment” scenes, but they amount to nothing because their characters weren’t given more time to evolve. However, Robin Williams proves again in this movie that he can do drama as well as he can do comedy. I love all the different versions of Robin Williams – from his funny roles in Popeye, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and Nine Months to his serious roles in Awakenings, Insomnia, One Hour Photo, and Good Will Hunting. He can do any kind of film and Good Morning, Vietnam is a perfect example of his range as an actor. Even though this film amounts to Vietnam War Lite, Good Morning, Vietnam is still a very good movie and looks and sounds just fine on this respectable Blu-ray released by Disney/Buena Vista.