Part Vietnam war film, part radio-based comedy, Good Morning, Vietnam is about radio DJ Adrian Cronauer as he becomes successful broadcasting to troops in the 1960s.
Much of the film, and your enjoyment of it, rests on Robin Williams, and whether or not you consider his over-the-top gurning and shouting to be entertaining. Like an attention seeking class clown with nothing funny to say he spouts terrible one liners and does a range of painfully unfunny voices in a way that’s insufferable if you’re not already completely enamoured to Williams’ unique brand of idiocy.
For a large part of the film I genuinely thought it was a running joke that everyone thinks he’s funny when he’s actually awful. This isn’t helped by a huge number of pop culture references which fly over the head of someone not knowledgeable about 1960s music (even though the film was made in 1987), although it’s less cripplingly dated than 1970’s M*A*S*H.
Apart from Williams the cast is very strong. Particularly notable is a young Forrest Whitaker as the dorky but likeable Edward. Also, for you nerds: you know the hospital janitor from Terminator 2? Well, you know he was played by identical twins (Dan and Don Stanton) for when the T-1000 replicates him? Well, they’re both in Good Morning, Vietnam, actually playing twins. Cool, right? No? Only me? Never mind.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Robin Williams is the worst thing about this film. Whenever he was presenting the radio show I was praying for him to hurry up and play a song. It was like listening to Sara Cox, yet in spite of how awful he is everyone finds him hilarious. I wonder if it was based on Robin Williams’ actual life.
Apart from him it’s actually pretty good in a lot of other ways. It’s got a nice plot, and is an interesting new perspective on the Vietnam war, even if it’s not as hard hitting as, say, Apocalypse Now! (probably a good thing for a comedy). While most of Williams’ radio hosting scenes were ad libbed, I couldn’t help but wish they had written some genuinely funny scenes in their place, and had them presented by a better actor. Then this film might have been enjoyable rather than merely tolerable.