Good Morning, Vietnam Reviews
All I wanted was to have a few good laughs from this comedy. Instead I get more out of it. Now, calling this a comedy will be understating it. It has anti-war messages, not with scenes of dead bodies and explosions, but subtly conveyed in Robin Williams' performance and his humour. I may be naive but I believe Robin is playing himself, a humourous chap with a heart of gold. There is a scene his jeep was stuck in a jam together with trucks of GIs. There and then, he, upon request, puts up a stand-up comedy and in his eyes rolling are tears. Now this is not a close-up... I think he is happy not because the soldiers' applause affirm his popularity and hence 'exacting revenge' on the conservative radio station which booted him. But I think because he is wise to know that humour cheers up the soldiers better than words of encouragement or moving big talk. Now, that kind of subtle performance deserves an Oscar too, not necessarily a serious one.
The movie reminds me of how humour is so sparse at workplaces. No boss really wants to take a jokey worker seriously, unless you are a straight-faced no-nonsense worker, in short the nerdy killjoys. They may play the tune of injecting play in your work but they actually mean it as a joke.
The movie can go in all the 'right' directions to be a mushy comedy which yearns to be taken seriously. There are scenes of farewell, arguement between friends with different political views, welcoming back a beloved DJ etc but never once you feel nauseous because of a well-balanced light humour. There is a sequence of Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World playing to shots of a very chaotic Vietnam. I like that very much. Sad, ironical but never insensitive.
Now, I realise from imdb's trivia that Robin's character Adrian Cronauer is based on a real person and he did not do half the things mentioned in the movie that would surely have him court-martialled. Yes, this is taking too much liberty of the facts but hey, I don't mind a bit if that would be a better story.
GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM is very loosely based on the experiences of former radio DJ Adrian Cronauer during his stint in (South) Vietnam in 1965 and 1966. Cronauer was a radio announcer on Armed Forces Radio in Crete when he was sent to Saigon back when the Vietnam War was still referred to as a "police action". With his enthusiastic broadcasting style including his now iconic sign on address, his choice of playing James Brown and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas rather than the usual unimaginative fare of Perry Como and Mantovani, and his disdain for authority, he butted heads with his superiors on more than one occasion. But the American soldiers who were posted in Vietnam loved Cronauer and he quickly became the Voice of Saigon.
The real Adrian Cronauer has said on many occasions that if he had acted in real life as he was portrayed in the film, he still would be serving time in military prison. Yes, GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM is not much more than a vehicle to showcase Williams' brand of rapid fire stand up humour, so ignore the back story and enjoy the show. His comparison of Mister Ed (a fictional talking horse from 1960s television) to then former US vice president (and future president) Richard Nixon is pure genius. Who else except Williams would have noticed that the two voices actually sound alike? (It's ironic that the real Cronauer is a big supporter of the Republican Party and probably voted for Nixon.) Throughout the course of the film, Williams also channels other voices from popular culture of the day including Elvis, Gomer Pyle, Elmer Fudd, Rod Serling, Lawrence Welk and Walter Cronkite. Even Ethel Merman makes an "appearance". For those of us who grew up watching with these people on TV, it's like a blast from the past.
Of course, some of Williams' material would never make it onto any radio station back in the 60s let alone a government-run station. His character, Mr. Leo, a flowery fashion consultant for the army, thinks that the soldiers' camouflage uniforms are all wrong. As Mr. Leo says, "You know, you go in the jungle, make a statement. If you're going to fight, clash." Funny, most definitely, but that's because the film was made in 1987 when it was acceptable to make gay jokes like that. The same can be said about Williams' other character, Roosevelt E. Roosevelt, a soldier stationed in Vietnam who provides Cronauer with regular weather updates. ("Fool, it's hot! I told you again!") One can argue that Roosevelt is an updated parody of Jack Benny's servant, Rochester, but I doubt that people back in 1965 would have made the connection let alone appreciated it.
Don't expect to garner any great insights about the American presence in Vietnam in the 60s from watching this film. This is no APOCALYPSE NOW or THE DEER HUNTER. The few scenes that show the Viet Cong bombing American hangouts in Saigon or the Americans bombing the Vietnamese countryside offer nothing more than a Reader's Digest version of the events that took place there. But this film is a pleasure to watch if only to see a master entertainer at work.
Thanks, Robin, for giving us so much happiness. If there is a heaven, I hope you're there making G-d and the angels laugh.