Jive Time on Radio Robin
Robin Williams's movie career could be described as a rollercoaster ride, for every good movie such as "Dead Poet's Society" there is a stinker such as "RV". One of his best movies is the glorious "Good Morning, Vietnam" which not only allows Williams to fire off wise crack after wise crack but also delivering a touching story of what life was like in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Because so much of "Good Morning, Vietnam" relies on Williams's quick fire comedy it is full of memorable madcap moments which even now over 20 years since it was released still remain fresh in your mind.
Having impressed with his radio show in Crete, live wire Disc Jockey Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams - Man of the Year) is shipped to Saigon to help boost troop morale with a new radio show. With his madcap antics and love of modern music he soon becomes a hit with the troops but the same time falls foul of his immediate superiors who are less than impressed with his disregard for the rules and protocol. But whilst posted in Saigon he gets to know the locals especially a young girl and her brother as well as experiencing the war at first hand.
On face value "Good Morning, Vietnam" comes across as a story of one mans anarchic approach to radio broadcasting which unsettles his superiors. As such we have Robin Williams as Adrian Cronauer who blasts in to Saigon and makes his mark thanks to his constant comedy and disregard for authority. It's highly entertaining thanks to Williams virtuoso performance riffing left right and centre as the live wire DJ who just wants to lift the moral of the troops and give them some truth rather than the edited news that his immediate superiors want him to give. As such "Good Morning, Vietnam" is full on entertainment with Robin Williams at his best, firing off comedy one liners, characters and voices in a barrage which is impossible not to enjoy.
But look at "Good Morning, Vietnam" at a deeper level and it's not just about a man trying to bring joy to the troops but also about a man who hides behind the jokes yet has to face reality. We like Cronauer and enjoy the fact that almost everything and everyone is an opportunity for a joke, but we also become fascinated when things take a turn and the emotion of the war around him hits him out of his fun world. It gives it another level, a deeper meaning than just being a comedy about the antics of a shock jock.
And what is surprising is that whilst "Good Morning, Vietnam" is set during the Vietnam War, it's not really about the war. It provides a backdrop more than anything and never really encroaches on the main storyline. Yes you get montages of troops heading off into the jungle, often accompanied by an impressive soundtrack or trouble with local fighters but it never becomes a war movie.
One thing is for sure and that is that "Good Morning, Vietnam" is Robin Williams's movie. He's the central figure, the driving force behind everything which is good. From the first time we hear him scream 'Good Morning, Vietnam' through to his improv, and yes Williams did improv much of what we see and hear which shouldn't be a surprise, he is on fire. But as already mentioned it's not just the comedy side of things which makes it such a good performance but also his delivery of emotion as he stops hiding behind all the jokes.
Aside from Robin Williams, well Forrest Whitaker is good as his right hand man Edward Garlick, creating a character full of nervous humour and Robert Wuhl is sparky as wise cracking DJ Marty Lee Dreiwitz. But the best performance behind Williams comes from a shockingly thin looking Bruno Kirby as Cronauer's immediate superior Lt. Steven Hauk whos stiffness delivers a splendid amount of humour in itself.
What this all boils down to is that "Good Morning, Vietnam" is a hugely entertaining movie. On face value it's a riot of comedy and Robin Williams is at his best as the live wire Adrian Cronauer delivering jokes at us faster than a machine gun. But then it also delivers a level of emotion as we watch Cronauer facing the realities of life and sort of stopping him hiding behind his shield of comedy. Add to that a stunning soundtrack and you have a hugely memorable movie for all the right reasons.