Good Morning Vietnam (Blu-ray)
As is often the case with Blu-ray releases of films that were previously available on DVD (and yes, VHS too), sometimes movies garner a “cult” following that may exceed their original merit. I feel this way about a lot of ‘classics’… but the feeling isn’t limited to watching older movies at home. I admit, I am guilty of it in the theaters from time to time – I hear about a new movie and get so excited that when I see it… I’m a little bit let down. Recently I have become more aware of this, but that doesn’t make it any easier to keep from buying into the hype. GOOD MORNING VIETNAM is one of those movies for me.
The fictionalized account of real-life army DJ Adrian Cronauer during the Vietnam War, GOOD MORNING VIETNAM was one of the first movies I saw that tried to deal with something terrible by telling a ‘lighter-side’ story. I remember it fondly from my teens, mostly due to the generally manic performance of Robin Williams (whom I idolized at the time). Williams does a great job with a role essentially written for him – in fact I wonder how much of the script was used when he goes off on the riffs that were essentially his entire standup routine from that era.
When Cronauer arrives in Vietnam (hand selected by the General in charge), he is greeted less than enthusiastically by the officers in charge of the station. Lt. Hauk (the late, GREAT Bruno Kirby) is an officer who longs to be on the radio but lacks the charisma (and comedic timing) to bring it to fruition. Sgt. Major Dickerson (another phenomenal late actor, J.T. Walsh) is equally disgruntled by Cronauer’s attitude. From his first moment on air, Cronauer tries to bring a breath of fresh air to the airwaves for the men proudly serving their country.
In addition to mocking the rules and decorum so carefully cultivated by our armed forces, Cronauer goes out of his way to meet a young Vietnamese woman to whom he is attracted – even going so far as to bribe someone to allow him to teach the English class she is taking so that he can get to know her better. In so doing, he befriends her younger brother and starts to spend time with him. While this is/was potentially moving, upon this viewing it all felt very preternatural and far too convenient. What was to be one of the major pulls on the heart strings feels more like a set up.
Along the way, though, there are some truly great moments. When Cronauer is suspended and decides that he is not going to work on the radio any longer, Williams sells the moment. When his assistant (Whitaker) brings him to a group of men shipping out to the front lines to remind him why his job is important, Williams owns the screen. In these moments the feeling that was sought for the entire film is crystal clear – but it is an image that sticks around for far too short a time.
In the end that’s basically what we’re left with – a lot of mud in our faces with a few moments of clarity. I’m not intentionally being hard on this movie – I do think there is an element of disappointment in my reaction to the movie. Many films have become iconic, films that remind us of a different time. GOOD MORNING VIETNAM is a movie that I wish I had left in the rear-view.
Video: (1080p, 1.85:1 Widescreen) The picture is both beautiful and disturbing, bringing us to the middle of Vietnam with the characters.
Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) The sound is very well done, an expertly mixed track of classic rock and deejay hijinks.
Production Diary (34:32) A six part production diary presented in standard definition (why no HD love?), but it is glorious nonetheless. This is the type of special feature you wish for on every movie that you love. Included are stories from the set, in depth discussions of the authenticity of the movie, interviews with cast and crew about their experience, and much more. A worthwhile feature for any film fan, my only issue is the lack of HD presentation.
The six parts can be viewed as one or as separate features: 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.
Raw Monologues (13:07) With an introduction from Director Levinson, this is the raw footage of Williams improvising. Pretty incredible and fun to see.
The disc also includes the Theatrical Trailer and the Theatrical Teaser Trailer.