Good Morning Vietnam (Blu-ray)

More places should serve drinks with formaldehyde.

The description on the back of the box for this Blu-ray is the usual studio hyperbole, trying to convince you to buy the movie, yet it does describe Good Morning, Vietnam as “the quintessential Robin Williams movie.” For once, the back-of-the-box hyperbole gets it right.

Vietnam, 1965. Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams, Hook) is a DJ for Armed Forces Radio, recently transferred there from Crete. His irreverent comedy and love of rock and roll make him a hit with the troops, but a frustration for his superior officers. As he befriends some of the local Vietnamese, he gets a glimpse of the brewing conflict in troubled Vietnam, so he insists on reading uncensored news on the air, no matter how much chaos that might cause.

It’s become fashionable on the internet in recent years to hate on Robin Williams. Me? Even if some of his recent films haven’t been stellar, I still like the guy. When he’s paired with the right material, he can work wonders, and that’s the case with Good Morning, Vietnam. It not only gives Williams the chance to do a ton of improv shtick, but he’s a great dramatic actor as well, and the movie lets him explore his serious side as well.

Cronauer is something of a hard character to figure out. If he’s this rebellious, anti-authority type, then what he even doing in the military? Rewatching the film, it seems to me that Cronauer’s deal is that he maintains his principles, no matter what. He’s got his own ideas about what’s right and wrong, and he sticks to those ideas, even when challenged. Throughout the movie, especially in its final third, Cronauer makes a lot of what appear to be bad decisions, landing himself in more and more trouble. In his mind, though, he’s always in the right. This is what fuels his irreverence on the air, the friendships he makes, and what ultimately gets him in trouble.

It’s Williams’s show, but the other actors support him nicely. Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) portrays Cronauer’s every-man sidekick, a good “stand-in” for the audience. Bruno Kirby is great as the lieutenant who tries to shut down Cronauer at every turn. He uses his rank to bully the other men at the station, simply because he can. The guy is such a total jerk that you truly hate him by the time the movie’s over, and that’s thanks to Kirby solid, consistent performance.

The 1.85:1 AVC-encoded Blu-ray transfer is a good one. There are not a lot of flashy visuals here. Stalwart director Barry Levinson (Rain Man) smartly keeps the camera in one place and just lets the actors act. There are a few visual flourishes, though, that really bring out the best in the 1080p picture, most notably a few trips Cronauer takes to outside of Saigon and into the jungle, where the lush greens really pop off the screen. The levels on the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track are decent for most of the movie, except for when the classic rock tunes kick in, in which case they’re powerful and booming. Clearly, the audio work was done with the goal of bringing out the best in the music. For bonus features, there is a production diary, covering the origins and filming of the movie, as well as a “one year later” look back at it. We also get raw footage of Williams’s improv on set, and the theatrical teaser and trailer.

Equal parts hilarious and dramatic, Good Morning, Vietnam deserves to be appreciated, and this Blu-ray is a great way to do it.

The Verdict

Good morning, not guilty.

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