Good Morning Vietnam! (1987) follows the story of Adrian Cronauer (Rob Williams), a Radio DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Service of the United States in Saigon, Vietnam in 1965. Cronauer’s sole job is to “send the troops to work laughing” and boost overall morale. Rob Williams spontaneous wit, quirky personality and ability to blend these elements with more serious undertones makes him a perfect fit for the role.
Cronauer’s behavior is by no means confined by the traditional army guidelines that have left the airwaves in Vietnam controlled by monotone, dull, and just plain annoying DJ’s with no sense of comedy or taste in good music that the soldiers would appreciate. There is no better contrast to the different personality types at work than when Cronauer begins his first broadcast and lets out that famous screeching call, “Gooooood Mooooorning Vietnam!”
Within the comical ranting’s of Cronauer (Williams), there are clear serious undertones to the jokes that also have callings to the real-world implications of how the war in Vietnam was fought. Often in the form of faux dialogue between himself and numerous fictitious personalities that Cronauer had created, Cronauer would ask about numerous aspects of the war. These questions included everything from asking how G.I’s should dress, which Cronauer’s flamboyantly gay personality would respond “I know a certain GI who is wearing green this fall, why? Because it matches with everything else out here!”, to questioning military intelligence and the progression of the war by answering with the clearly dim-witted Army Intelligence Officer persona, that responds with “We can’t find the enemy, so we ask people if they’re the enemy and if they say yes, we shoot them.”
The film itself takes numerous thematic directional turns that take Cronauer out of the setting of the broadcast studio and out into the city of Saigon, where we as an audience get to witness both the hilarious antics and the sincere interactions that Cronauer has with the native Vietnamese. One of the most humanizing aspects of Cronauer, that clearly encapsulates his and Robin Williams love of life, is the English teaching role he assumes in an effort to win the heart over a Vietnamese girl. In the process of teaching the class, Cronauer teaches the Vietnamese more “practical” English that involves numerous swear words and phrases with outrageously hilarious outcomes, but also establishes long lasting relationships with the Vietnamese in his class, in particularly with the brother of the girl he was trying to date.
Up until halfway into the film, Cronauer had yet to experience any of the horrors of Vietnam and had been living the war essentially from his broadcast studio. However this all changes drastically when terrorist attacks in Saigon begin to escalate. One of Cronauer’s favorite hangout spots, a local bar the GI’s call “Jimmys”, is blown up nearly seconds after he walks out of the building, killing a handful of people and wounding dozens.
Overall this is a must see Robin Williams film. The film manages to maintain a balance of both satirical and serious portrayals of the Vietnam War, by controlling the blending of comedy with the realities of war to tell a story of the struggles of Adrian Cronauer during his time in Saigon. I have purposely left a lot of the film’s content out of this blog post as I do not want to give away too many spoilers in hopes that people will go and watch the film.