Good Morning, Vietnam

Directed By: Barry Levinson

Starring: Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Tung Thanh Tran, Chintara Sukapatana, Bruno Kirby, Robert Wuhl, and J. T. Walsh

With President Obama waging war against ISIS, ISIL, or whatever the hell these nutcases call themselves, one hard reality that a handful of men and women in the service are facing today is that they're headed back over to the Middle East.  That's a tough hand to be dealt, and I have to commend those brave few who will take on this often thankless duty.  With the 100th anniversary of the commencement of World War I in Austria this year, the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and particularly the upcoming documentary The Last Days in Vietnam, I'm certainly reflecting a bit on the equally hard realities our armed forces have faced historically.  As I've been revisiting Robin Williams's filmography simultaneously, I'm happy to relive the tale of Armed Forces Radio Service DJ Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam.  It's the tale of someone bringing our fellow Americans a little joy and laughter in the midst of an otherwise grim reality.

It's 1965.  Airman Second Class Adrian Cronauer (Williams) arrives in Saigon from Crete to work as a radio host for the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS).  Welcomed by Private First Class Edward Montesquieu Garlick (Forest Whitaker), Cronauer immediately makes his mark on this once-bland radio station.  Kicking things off with his signature line "Goooooooooooooooood Morning, Vietnam!” and putting plenty of tunes from the base's banned music list on the air, he makes his irreverent attitude crystal clear from the start.  For those soldiers craving a taste of culture back home, Cronauer's style is exactly what's needed.  However, his superiors Second Lieutenant Steven Hauk (Bruno Kirby) and Sergeant Major Phillip Dickerson (J. T. Walsh) don't share the opinion of the masses.

As Cronauer begins to explore Saigon, he discovers this beautiful Vietnamese woman named Trinh (Chintara Sukapatana).  He's so smitten with this girl that he hops on a bike and follows her around the city to an English class she attends.  Recognizing an opportunity, he maneuvers his way into taking over the course from the current instructor.  Though he can't seal the deal with Trinh, Cronauer does make a familial connection with her little brother Tuan (Tung Thanh Tran).  Meanwhile, Hauk and Dickerson plot to get Cronauer off the AFRS airwaves.  However, they have one roadblock they did not intend, their own superior Brigadier General Taylor (Noble Willingham).

The heart and soul of Good Morning, Vietnam is undoubtedly Robin Williams.  He gets an opportunity to be insanely funny in this war comedy.  What's amazing about this performance is that most of the money scenes are improvised by Williams.  Given the naturally gifted comedian he was, Williams absolutely shines in this role.  His performance is just so energetic.  It's like the stand-up comedian in him comes roaring out and he pulls energy from this imaginary crowd in the studio with him.  It's like director Barry Levinson winds Williams up and just unleashes him on camera.  Williams's performance also speaks to his vocal acting abilities.  Imitating many living legends of the era and making up plenty of other characters as he goes, he does plenty of his signature voice work here.

Williams has some great supporting cast members as well.  A young Forest Whitaker rises to the occasion as Cronauer's riding buddy Eddie.  Though he eventually brings some of the same irreverence to the movie that Williams does, Whitaker also brings plenty to the film emotionally when it counts.  As Cronauer's superiors, Bruno Kirby and J. T. Walsh are rigid, bumbling clowns on camera, and it works perfectly for many of their comedic setups with Williams.  Finally, we have Robert Wuhl as Staff Sergeant Marty Lee Dreiwitz.  He's a bit annoying at times, but he certainly has his amusing moments as well.

As fun as Good Morning, Vietnam is and as wildly entertaining as Williams's performance is, there is one drawback to the film — predictability.  Without knowing the real life Adrian Cronauer's tale, you can call this film from start to finish.  Still, that doesn't mean you can't appreciate the loads of humor Williams and his co-stars deliver throughout this raucous affair.  Good Morning, Vietnam gets a strong 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.