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Good Morning, Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) movie poster Good Morning, Vietnam

Theatrical Release: December 25, 1987 / Running Time: 121 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: Barry Levinson / Writer: Mitch Markowitz

Cast: Robin Williams (Adrian Cronauer), Forest Whitaker (Edward Garlick), Tung Thanh Tran (Tuan), Chintara Sukapatana (Trinh), Bruno Kirby (Lt. Steven Hauk), Robert Wuhl (Marty Lee Dreiwitz), J.T. Walsh (Sgt. Major Dickerson), Noble Willingham (Gen. Taylor), Richard Edson (Pvt. Abersold), Juney Smith (Phil McPherson), Richard Portnow (Dan "The Man" Levitan), Floyd Vivino (Eddie Kirk), Cu Ba Nguyen (Jimmy Wah), Dan R. Stanton (Censor #1), Don E. Stanton (Censor #2)

Buy Good Morning, Vietnam from Amazon.com: Blu-ray Special Edition DVD Instant Video

By 1987, Robin Williams had been the star of a primetime sitcom ("Mork and Mindy"), three HBO comedy specials, and more than half a dozen motion pictures,
including Popeye, The World According to Garp, and Moscow on the Hudson. Opening Christmas Day 1987, Good Morning, Vietnam would take the manic funnyman to new heights, giving him his first really big hit movie and his first Academy Award nomination.

Very loosely based on reality, Good Morning tells the story of Adrian Cronauer (Williams), a U.S. military radio disc jockey assigned to Saigon in 1965. Cronauer is not like the other mild-mannered men the troops are used to hearing on the air. Within seconds of his mic going live, he is shouting and stretching the titular phrase, three words that will soon become his trademark sign-on. With impressions, characters, an anything goes sense of humor and a playlist of current rock 'n roll, Cronauer's fast and energetic stream of consciousness is an immediate hit with his fellow soldiers.

Robin Williams plays free-spirited military radio DJ Adrian Cronauer in "Good Morning, Vietnam."

Not everyone is a fan. The comedically challenged and underrespected Lieutenant Hauk (Bruno Kirby) takes issue with Cronauer's irreverence, as does his no-nonsense commanding officer Sergeant Major Dickerson (J.T. Walsh). But the reaction of an unprecedented volume of calls and letters is otherwise favorable and Cronauer counts influential Brigadier Taylor (Noble Willingham) among his many fans.

On the side of his morale-boosting morning gig, Cronauer takes over an English language class for Vietnamese citizens, largely as a way to get close to a young woman named Trinh (Chintara Sukapatana). Trinh doesn't speak English very well, but her younger brother Tuan (Tung Thanh Tran) is fairly fluent and he both looks out for her and befriends his teacher Cronauer. There is more to this friendship than first meets the eye and that shapes the film's dramatic final act.

As written by sitcom veteran Mitch Markowitz, the role of Adrian Cronauer was a gift that could only be intended for Robin Williams. One wonders how much on-air material (if any) Markowitz scripted for the disc jockey,
because the movie is mainly a showcase for Williams' rapid-fire wit, his ability to jump from one funny voice to another, barely even pausing to breathe. Undoubtedly, Williams brought ideas and jokes to the movie, and there is more of Williams' popular stand-up and public appearance persona to the characterization than the real Cronauer (who we see in the bonus features).

Director Barry Levinson, a year away from his Oscar-winning helming of 1988 Best Picture Rain Man, knew he had something special in Williams' dynamic soundboard chatter and he develops the entire movie around it. A good amount of the film is nothing more than Williams going wild, with approving listener shots woven in. Scenes end when Cronauer puts on a record, not one of the pre-approved list of Lawrence Welk and Percy Faith, but usually hip Top 40 fare like The Beach Boys, Martha and the Vandellas, and James Brown. In these portions, the movie takes on the appearance of a music video, capturing the early days of the Vietnam War with fondness and a sense of fun. We don't see anything resembling traditional warfare, just a few explosions and signs of resistance. Basically, despite the film's tagline ("The wrong man. In the wrong place. At the right time."), this looks like both the time and place to be, where the laughs flow and the biggest enemies are humorless men easily cut down with wiseass sarcasm.

Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) teaches the Vietnamese the subtleties of American English profanity. Not everyone is amused by the irreverent Cronauer (Williams), especially not Sgt. Major Dickerson (J.T. Walsh).

That puts this movie in stark contrast to the other Vietnam movies of the late '80s, enduring dramas like Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Born on the Fourth of July, and Casualties of War that subscribed to cinema's prevailing war-is-hell belief. War may be hell, but Cronauer's anti-authority comedy doesn't even need that context to qualify as a great gift to his fellow soldiers.

Though the foundation is a little silly and Williams' largely solo comedy won't exactly bust your guts on repeat viewings, Good Morning, Vietnam remains likable and diverting throughout. It's also just substantial enough to appreciate as more than just some dated '80s levity. Williams is easily up to the film's dramatic challenges, without which I doubt he would have earned a nod for the Best Actor Oscar, an award he lost to Wall Street's Michael Douglas.

Grossing $124 million, the equivalent of a Hangover-like $239 M adjusted for inflation, Good Morning, Vietnam was one of two big hits of the 1987 holiday season for Touchstone Pictures (the other was the even bigger Thanksgiving opener Three Men and a Baby) at a time when parent company Disney was largely just relying on reissues of old animated hits outside of its newly-formed adult division.

Nearly a quarter-century later, Good Morning hasn't quite gone on record as a comedy classic (it cracked the American Film Institute's 2000 all-time comedy countdown "100 Years...100 Laughs" at #100), but it remains well-liked and well-liked enough to become a rare live-action catalog movie released to Blu-ray by Disney's terribly cautious home video division. Recalling January of 2006, when the studio issued new Special Edition DVDs of this and Williams' hit follow-up vehicle Dead Poets' Society, the two films made their Blu-ray debuts this week, with Good Morning Vietnam branded a 25th Anniversary Edition.

Watch a clip from Good Morning, Vietnam:

Good Morning, Vietnam Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: January 17, 2012
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $20.00
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Still available as Special Edition DVD ($14.99 SRP; January 10, 2006)
and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Good Morning, Vietnam looks pretty great on Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 transfer is sharp, clean, and detailed. A few scenes display some light grain, but for the most part, the picture meets or exceeds high expectations for a 1980s comedy. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio likewise pleases. Comedy films, particularly yesteryear ones, generally don't offer many fireworks aurally. But this one has both its overflowing supply of still-appealing 1960s songs as well as a few potent explosions. Furthermore, the main event -- Williams' DJing -- is presented crisply and clearly. There is more directionality than expected for the production period and a number of scenes deliver first-rate South Vietnam atmosphere (which is actually Thailand). This is not a presentation that stands to be bested in a few years.

The real Adrian Cronauer separates fact from fiction in front of the Washington Monument. In the six years since our last GMV review, Robin Williams has taken big steps towards looking like this at age 65. The late, great Bruno Kirby gives what would be one of his last interviews in the Production Diary retrospective. Robin Williams performs comedy in the dark and in uniform in this original theatrical teaser.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray offers all of the same bonus features as the Special Edition DVD, presenting them all in standard definition and 1.33:1. First and most substantially is "Production Diary" (34:32), a six-part retrospective. Interviewed for this piece were producers Larry Brezner and Mark Johnson, screenwriter Mitch Markowitz, director Barry Levinson, the real Adrian Cronauer, and actors Robert Wuhl and Bruno Kirby, the latter sadly giving one of his final interviews.

Highlights include Cronauer sorting out truth from fiction and sharing the origin of his signature sign-on (which was different and longer than Williams' movie version), Kirby recalling his father's insight into his character, talk of filming in Thailand (complete with a bit of old EPK footage) and using improvisation, and Levinson justifying cheating a few years in order to fit Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" in the movie (a selection that helped the single rechart that winter twenty years after original release). Though the interview pool is a bit lacking, this is a solid companion to the film.

The windowboxed "Raw Monologues" (13:07) show us Williams in his element, improvising and riffing at the speed of light for minutes at a time. Levinson introduces these few long takes.

The disc draws to a close with the film's standard original theatrical trailer (2:31) and its teaser trailer (1:32). The latter intrigues, consisting of a unique stream of Cronauer jokes, most of them making it into the film, but not as shot here (darkened studio, Cronauer in military fatigues), and with two period songs (Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' "Walk Like a Man" and Aretha Franklin's "Respect") that didn't make it into the movie.

Clips float across the Blu-ray's main menu while a melody resembling one of those '60s tunes plays.

The only insert inside the side-snapped standard Blu-ray case is a booklet promoting other Touchstone Blu-rays, none of them released more recently than 2007. How the studio doesn't think to promote the concurrent Dead Poets' Society BD with a trailer, insert mention, or shrinkwrap sticker baffles me.

Cronauer (Robin Williams) does his impression of a newswire to the amusement of his assistant (Forest Whitaker) and other American troops. The friendship of Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) and Vietnamese teen Tuan (Tung Thanh Tran) has its pluses and minuses.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Good Morning, Vietnam holds up as a good piece of entertainment. Its depiction of Vietnam may be simple, narrow, and largely fictionalized, but it remains an appealing Robin Williams vehicle, both diverting comedically and resonant dramatically. The Blu-ray offers noticeable better picture and sound over the Special Edition DVD and the same exact bonus features. The price is low enough to consider upgrading from one to the other, depending on your appreciation of the movie and the extent of your Blu-ray collection. The gains over the movie's original barebones non-anamorphic DVD are significant enough to make this a no-brainer step-up from that. At the very least, the movie is worth a look, especially for fans of Robin Williams' comedy.

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Good Morning, Vietnam Songs List: Lawrence Welk - "Around the World in 80 Days", Them - "Baby Please Don't Go", Bob Dylan - "Ballad of a Thin Man", Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello - "Beach Blanket Bingo", The Rivieras - "California Sun", Sounds Orchestral - "Cast Your Fate to the Wind", Marvelettes - "Danger, Heartbreak Ahead", The Beach Boys - "Don't Worry Baby", Perry Como - "Dream On Little Dreamer", The Vogues - "Five O'Clock World", Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders - "Game of Love", Lawrence Welk & Myron Floren - "Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight", The Beach Boys - "I Get Around", James Brown - "I Got You (I Feel Good)", Lawrence Welk - "I'll Never Smile Again", Wilson Pickett - "In the Midnight Hour", Adam Faith - "It's Alright", Lawrence Welk & Myron Floren - "Kit Kat Polka", The Castaways - "Liar Liar", Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass - "Acapulco", Jack Jones - "Lollipops & Roses", Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - "Nowhere to Run", Ray Conniff - "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", The Searchers - "Sugar and Spice", The Beach Boys - "Warmth of the Sun", Louis Armstrong - "What a Wonderful World", Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames - "Yeah Yeah"; Cast - "My Boyfriend's Back", "Puff the Magic Dragon", "Rawhide", "You Keep Me Hangin' On", "Like Tweet", "Get a Job"

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Reviewed January 20, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1987 Touchstone Pictures and 2012 Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.