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Good Morning Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 10, 2012 by  



Enjoyable now as when I first watched it more than 20 years ago!  “Good Morning Vietnam” is set during the Vietnam War, but the film focuses on one DJ’s job to make the soldiers laugh and at ease before they go out to combat.  Robin Williams is absolutely excellent in this film and there is not many people I can think of who can play this role with absolute efficacy.  “Good Morning Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition” is recommended!

Images courtesy of ©2012 Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Good Morning Vietnam

FILM RELEASE: 1987

DURATION: 121 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH and French

COMPANY: Touchstone Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Children)

Release Date: January 17, 2012

Directed by Barry Levinson

Written by Mitch Markowitz

Produced by Larry Brezner, Mark Johnson

Co-Produced by Harry Benn, Ben Moses

Music by Alex North

Cinematography by Peter Sova

Edited by Stu Linder

Casting by Louis DiGiaimo

Production Design by Roy Walker

Art Direction by Steve Spence

Set Decoration by Tessa Davies

Costume Design by Keith Denny

Starring:

Robin Williams as Adrian Cronauer

Forest Whitaker as Edward Garlick

Tung Thanh Tran as Tuan

Chinatara Sukapatana as Trinh

Bruno Kirby as Lt. Steven Hauk

Robert Wuhl as Marty Lee Dreiwitz

J.T. Walsh as Sgt. Major Dickerson

Noble Willingham as Gen. Taylor

Richard Edson as Pvt. Abersold

Juney Smith as Phil McPherson

Richard Portnow as Dan “The Man” Levitan

Enjoy the unsurpassed digital sound quality of Blu-ray High Definition as Army deejay Adrian Cronauer (Williams) spins a red-hot soundtrack of ‘60s hits. His sidesplitting comedy and rapid fire wit make him a hero to the troops, but quickly get him in hot water with his by-the-book superiors. Featuring a behind-the-scenes look at Williams’ hilarious radio monologues, Good Morning, Vietnam remains the quintessential Robin Williams comedy.

Robin Williams absolutely shines in this war comedy loosely based on the life of military DJ Adrian Cronauer.

Adrian Cronauer, a Vietnam War vet and former AFRS DJ was trying to pitch a sitcom based on his experience but as the TV networks were not interested, he revamped his script which caught the attention of actor/comedian Robin Williams.

While Cronauer’s script was redone by screenwriter Mitch Markowitz (“M*A*S*H”, “Crazy People”) and the film was directed by Barry Levinson (“Toys”, “Wag the Dog”, “Sleepers”), the film would establish Robin Williams as a serious film actor (playing a different character from his previous character roles in “Popeye”, “The World According to Garp”, “Moscow on the Hudson”) yet maintaining that comedic side that many fans love.  His role on “Good Morning Vietnam” would earn the actor a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for “Best Actor”.

The film which was budgeted at $13 million would go on to make over $125 million in the box office and would be recognized by the American Film Institute in their 2000 “AFI’s 100 Years…10 Laughs”.

“Good Morning Vietnam” is a film that is set in Saigon, Vietnam in 1965.  Airman Second Class Adrian Cronauer (played by Robin Williams, “Dead Poets Society”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Good Will Hunting”) of the United States Air Force was recently transfered from Crete to work as a DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Service.

As many of the radio service have heard about Cronauer’s comedy, no one quite knows what to expect from him.

Cronauer is greeted by Private First Class Edward Montesquieu Garlick (played by Forest Whitaker, “Platoon”, “The Last King of Scotland”, “The Crying Game”) and fellow DJ Marty Lee Dreiwitz (played by Robert Wuhl, “Bull Durham”, “Batman”) and they watch Cronauer take the mic with great enthusiasm and begins his show on the air with a “Good Morning Vietnam!” and is able to entertain everyone with his comedy and also playing the latest music hits to the armed forces.

But unfortunately, his two superiors are not so enthusiastic about his comedy and music selection.  Second Lt. Steven Hauk (played by Bruno Kirby) believes in his own style of outdated comedy and rather hear polka and jazz, while Sgt. Major Dickerson (played by J.T. Walsh) does not care about Cronauer and his style of comedy.    But despite his superiors not liking him, Brigadier General Taylor (played by Noble Willingham) and those working at the Armed Forces Radio Services do and they support him.

Meanwhile, Cronauer who has been wanting to see a beautiful woman (since he could not find any in Crete) is excited to see many women in Saigon and eventually falls for a Vietnamese young woman named Trinh (played by Chintara Sukapatana) and follows her to English class.  As Cronauer pays off the instructor to become an English instructor for the class in order to get close to Trinh, he is confronted by a young man in class who doesn’t like him.  The young man, Tuan (played by Tung Thanh Tran), happens to be Trinh’s sister and immediately, Cronauer feels that in order to get close to her, he must be cool with the brother.

And eventually, Cronauer befriends Tuan and even allows him to enter a G.I. bar (which is illegal) to join him and his fellow friends from the Radio Service for a few drinks.  But when a few soldiers are upset with Cronauer for bringing the Vietnamese women inside the bar towards his table, the soldiers confront Cronauer and see he has brought a Vietnamese into their bar.  Immediately, they start pushing Tuan around and Cronauer begins to defend him.  And not long after, a major brawl takes place.

Cronauer is reprimanded for the incident and because he helped Tuan out, Tuan establishes a date between Cronauer and his sister.   When Tuan goes to tell Cronauer about the date, he tells him to leave the bar area and when both walk out, a huge explosion blows up inside the bar and people are killed and injured.

For the first time, Cronauer sees that things are not as safe as they appear in Vietnam and when he goes to report on the radio of what he has seen, he finds out that the military has censored the story and Sgt. Major Dickerson tells Cronauer to keep his mouth shut.  But Cronauer is upset that the military is trying to prevent him from reporting the news of what he has seen, so he locks the doors and goes live on the radio station to report what he had seen and upset, Dickerson orders the radio engineers to shut down the station.

Because Cronauer has disobeyed orders, he is suspended and as a replacement, Second Lt. Steven Hauk takes his place.  But unfortunately, the response to Hauk is negative and many serviceman want Cronauer back on the air.

But Cronauer who is now actively pursuing a date with Trinh hears news that Brigadier General Taylor wants him back at his DJ position.  So, as Garlick rushes to give Cronauer the great news,  fearing Sgt. Major Dickerson may send him to the front lines, Cronauer  refuses to go back to work.  But when Garlick and Cronauer are stuck in a traffic jam, they are stopped by a convoy of soldiers and the GI’s try to persuade Cronauer to come back at the job because his comedy gives them a good laugh before they go back into combat.

Seeing how important his voice on the air is to the soldiers, Cronauer realizes his importance of being a DJ during the war.  But hearing that Cronauer is coming back is not good news for Sgt. Major Dickerson, so Dickerson devises a plot to get rid of Cronauer by sending him and Garlick to interview soldiers in the field of combat.  Will either men survive the ordeal?

VIDEO:

“Good Morning Vietnam” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1). Typically, when it comes to films created in the late ’80s to very early ’90s and they receive the Blu-ray treatment, I tend to notice that the films are not as detailed and often look aged at times. A friend and a fellow reviewer for a major Blu-ray review site had told me that during those times, due to costs, many films utilized cheaper film stock. With “Good Morning Vietnam”, the film does exhibit its age at times.  In fact, there are certain moments where the there is quite a bit of noise that comes out and definitely shows the film’s age.

But comparing this to the original 2006 special edition DVD, the colors are much more vibrant.  There is actually more detail during the closeup scenes of the various faces of characters and although shot in Thailand and not in Vietnam, this film still looks much sharper and colorful on Blu-ray.

For those who owned the 2006 DVD, if you love this film, the upgrade to Blu-ray for the better picture quality is worth it.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Good Morning Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The film is pretty much center and front channel driven, but there are moments where you hear the typewriters clicking and a moment of an explosion and pandemonium breaking out.  But possibly the most distinct feature of this film is its music soundtrack which comes out quite crisp and clear via lossless.

Subtitles are in English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Good Morning Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition” comes with the following special features:

  • Production Diary – (34:30) Featuring the following mini-feauturettes: How the Movie Came to Be (6:21), Actor Improv (9:49), Music of the Movie (6:00), Origin of the “Good Morning Vietnam” Sign-On (3:03), Shooting in Thailand (7:39), Overview of the Film a Year Later (1:37).
  • Raw Monologues – (13:07) Director Barry Levinson talks about taking advantage of Robin Williams for the improv DJ segments and this footage features those improv segments.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer – (2:31) The original theatrical trailer.
  • Original Theatrical Teaser Trailer – (1:31) A teaser trailer featuring Robin Williams improving as a DJ on the mic.

I remember this film quite well as a teenager.  I remember my family driving to the city and my father making an unusual request which was for us to have fun shopping, while he went to catch the new Robin Williams film “Good Morning Vietnam”.  My father was a Vietnam War veteran and while he didn’t fight in combat, he always had this loyalty towards watching these war-related films but at the same time, he would rather watch it away from the family.

But I can remember us rejoining him, waiting for the film to be done and he came out of the theater and was quite pleased with the film.

And when this movie made it to cable, a few years later, I found it to be enjoyable, but most of all, found Robin Williams to be tolerable and not so over-the-top.  At the time, I was a Robin Williams fan, mainly for being an actor that entertained me and my younger brother with his series “Mork & Mindy”.

But like many other kids who grew up around that time, watching him on “Happy Days”, the film “Popeye” and “The World According to Garp”, there was a comfort of watching a Robin Williams film because you knew that you were going to be entertained.  But when I watched “Good Morning Vietnam”, the first thing that came to my head was how much comedy can their be in a film that takes place during the Vietnam War?

Fortunately, Williams playing the role of Adrian Cronauer made sense.  He can be a DJ, be as bombastic, comedic or outrageous…whatever he wanted to be, and in this case, it was a role that perfectly suited him.  It was a role in which Williams can definitely show his comedic side, his improvisational skills but also to show the viewer that he can also take on a serious role.

Director Barry Levinson also did a great job in capturing reactions by the GI’s, from many various clips, may they be short, but still very important in capturing the look and feel of Vietnam War.  From soldiers patrolling the rivers, soldiers lounging or on drills and Cronauer’s voice or the music he plays, entertaining the crowd.  Levinson also succeeds in the fact that he gives Williams that space needed for him to wing it on the mic, and by watching the people around him…they are just entertained by it.  Whether or not it’s part of the acting, or they were just as entertained as the audience when Robin Williams was close to that mic.

But of course, this is a war film that must have its moments of tension.  From blown up restaurants, bodies on the floor, there is enough war elements to make the viewer wonder if Adrian Cronauer is going to survive because of his interest in a young Vietnam women and despite his fellow soldiers telling him not to get involved, he remains persistent of going alone inside Vietnam villages.

And of course, while there is tension due to the war, you have tension inside the radio office as Cronauer must deal with two individuals who would love to see him gone.  And with Cronauer’s anti-establishment tone, especially mocking Nixon, you knew that Cronauer would meet major difficulty.  But through this process of getting in trouble, discovering the dangers around him, we eventually see this character change….how his character grows.

There is also one element that also was important in the film and it’s the music soundtrack.   This film showcased a lot of hit music from the ’60s from the Beach Boys, the Castaways, the Searchers, the Vogues, The Riveira’s, Martha & the Vandellas, James Brown and also the use of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” was pretty entertaining and effective.

As for the Blu-ray release of “Good Morning Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition”, the special features on this Blu-ray release are the same that were on the 2006 DVD special edition.  There is nothing new included but if you are a big fan of this film, the upgrade to better video and lossless audio is the major reason for previous owners to upgrade.

Overall, “Good Morning Vietnam” is a film that was easily the perfect vehicle for Robin Williams to showcase his acting skills.  You get to see Williams improv but also see the more serious side of his acting, but also to give credit to both director Barry Levinson for capturing the mood of the Vietnam War and Mitch Markowitz reworking the screenplay to compliment Robin Williams on camera and literally make this more of a comedy, than an actual war film.

Good Morning Vietnam” is set during the Vietnam War, but the film focuses on one DJ’s job to make the soldiers laugh and at ease before they go out to combat.  Robin Williams is absolutely excellent in this film and there is not many people I can think of who can play this role with absolute efficacy.  “Good Morning Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition” is recommended!

 






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