Good Morning, Vietnam (DVD)
Directed by Barry Levinson
Gooood morning, Vietnam! Wake up to the victorious odors of napalm, or at least the hyperkinetic shenanigans of Robin Williams, with the new Special Edition DVD of this quasi-classic wartime comedy.
Good Morning, Vietnam, originally released in 1987, helped solidify Robin Williams as a big screen star and earned the actor his first Oscar nomination. As Adrian Cronauer, a real life army DJ in Vietnam, Williams was handed a dream role that allowed him to capitalize on his schizophrenic, over-the-top humor while stretching out to more dramatic depths. Previously, Williams' big screen performances were muted in numerous mixed-bag movies like Moscow on the Hudson, Popeye, and The Best of Times.
As Cronauer, Williams finds the right mix of mania and drama. A leisurely man of the mouth, Cronauer is far from an instant smash with his commanding officers, but the troops in the trenches love his radio hi-jinx. For the soldiers, Cronauer represents a breath of fresh air, a man whose irreverent humor can cut through the oppressive tension of war.
When not on the radio, Cronauer finds himself falling in love with a Vietnamese woman, Trinh (Chintara Sukapatana), and finagles his way into an English class in order to woo her, a la John Keating, whom he'd go on to play two years later in Dead Poets Society. To further aid and abet his amorous adventures, Cronauer befriends the girl's brother, Tuan (Tung Thanh Tran), but rather than being an innocent young man, he might actually have ties to terrorist activities in the area.
Overall, nearly 20 years later, Good Morning, Vietnam and its underlying "stick it to the man" storyline has aged well. Particularly endearing are the scenes with Cronauer teaching English and softball to an eager group of Vietnamese students. Those classroom scenes, featuring a student body from a widely disparate age range, are priceless. (Note: Levinson offers insight into filming those scenes in the supplemental interviews.)
As with the new Special Edition DVD for Dead Poets Society, commendations are in order for the bonus materials presented on this DVD, which makes the film's original bare-bones disc obsolete. That's not to say there's a lot of material here, but what is here is dang good, especially considering the 18 years that have passed since the film's theatrical release.
The main feature is a half hour of interviews, collectively referred to as the Production Diary, with the primary talents involved in the film, including Barry Levinson, screenwriter Mitch Markowitz, and co-star Bruno Kirby. While it's a shame that, as with Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams did not participate in this special edition, the real Adrian Cronauer did, and his interview clips, complete with the Washington Memorial in the background, are excellent. While it's not entirely clear when the interviews were recorded (indeed, some of them take place only one year after the film's release), all the interviews feature solid recollections on the making of the movie and, for the most part, steer away from self-congratulatory or back-patting compliments. Also on hand is a 13-minute segment of "Raw Monologues," featuring Robin Williams behind the radio microphone, adlibbing dialogue for use during his radio broadcast scenes. The man is indeed a tireless wonder and it is entertaining to watch him simply go off for a while.
The only other supplements are a couple of the film's trailers, both, unfortunately, presented in full screen format.
Picture and Sound
Good Morning, Vietnam is finally presented in 16x9-enhanced widescreen (1.85:1), featuring a nicely done video transfer. However, the 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound is on the weak side, with minimal activity on the rear channels.
The DVD also includes a French language track and English captions for the hearing impaired.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.