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

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Jan 18, 2012.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
    Reviewer

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    Barry Levinson’s Good Morning, Vietnam fits into the war dramedy slot between Robert Altman’s masterfully funny and satiric M*A*S*H and Mike Nichols’ darker and more surreal Catch-22. Good Morning, Vietnam, while making a few salient points about the Vietnam conflict, really lives and dies on the improvisational skills of Robin Williams and his fellow cast of zanies. The dramatic scenes don’t work as well as in the other two films just mentioned and sometimes seem haphazardly wedged into the movie. There’s no denying the hilarity of Williams’ antics, however, and revisiting the film on its twenty-fifth anniversary reminds us how truly funny Robin Williams was in his prime.



    Good Morning, Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Barry Levinson

    Studio: Touchstone
    Year: 1987
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 121 minutes
    Rating: R
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French
    Subtitles: SDH, French

    Region: A-B-C
    MSRP: $ 20.00


    Release Date: January 17, 2012

    Review Date: January 18, 2012




    The Film

    4/5


    In 1965 Saigon, airman Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) has been recruited from Greece to spice up Armed Forces Radio/Saigon with his mocking humor and musical tastes that veer away from Lawrence Welk and Mantovani and lean more toward James Brown and the Four Seasons. He’s an immediate hit with the servicemen in the field, but his immediate superiors Lt. Steven Hauk (Bruno Kirby) and Sergeant Major Dickerson (J.T. Walsh) resent his irreverent approach to comedy (with its catty remarks concerning President Johnson’s daughters, Richard Nixon, former President Eisenhower, and other celebrities) and his rebellious insistence on playing rock and roll and reading truthful news to the GIs instead of copy that’s been censored and whitewashed, and they begin to try to find ways to get him sent stateside. Meanwhile, Adrian meets a stunning Vietnamese girl (Chintara Sukapatana) who’s in a military-run English class (which he takes over in his off hours from the station) and becomes close friends with her brother he nicknames “Sparky” (Tung Thanh Tran) while the war begins to escalate all around them.


    Mitch Markowitz’s script tries its best to bring in serious insights into the rapidly growing war movement (from a "police action" of 35,000 men to deployment of 400,000 more during Cronauer’s five months on the job), and while there is one effective dramatic suspense sequence nicely sustained by director Barry Levinson near the end of the film when Cronauer and his aide Edward Garlick (Forest Whitaker) are deliberately dispatched on a road under heavy guard from the VC, the film’s dramatic moments really prove mostly ineffective in contrast to the overwhelming comedy performances of Robin Williams and his associates. Cronauer’s riffs on the radio, particularly his first morning’s debut broadcast, are pure Robin Williams from start to finish, and this extended sequence provides the undisputed essence of Williams’ comic persona. In his dramatic scenes with the Vietnamese brother and sister he becomes close to as well in encounters with his class of English students and in his continual head-butting with his rankled superiors, he’s also effectively contained maintaining an undeniable comic soul without stepping on the performances of others. Another of the film's most dramatic if rather painfully obvious sequences involves the counterpoint of Louis Armstrong's lilting "What a Wonderful World" playing on the soundtrack while we see scenes of destruction and execution happening in the streets of the city. It makes its point but in a rather ham-fisted fashion.


    The role of Adrian Cronauer garnered Robin Williams his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and it remains likely his best overall film performance balancing his manic comedy brain with more restrained dramatic emoting that doesn’t reach for artificial pathos or synthetic sympathy. Forest Whitaker makes an amiable and ingratiating aide Garlick while Robert Wuhl has some excellent scenes as fellow station disc jockey Marty Lee Dreiwitz. As the two stiffly militaristic lynchpins who serve as continual thorns in his side, both J. T. Walsh and Bruno Kirby are superb. Kirby especially has his own sublime moment in the spotlight when he temporarily replaces Cronauer in the announcer’s booth and proceeds to attempt to match his loopy wit and sense of music style with jokes worthy of Reader’s Digest and polka music that would warm Lawrence Welk’s heart. Cu Ba Nguyen has some amusing moments as the fey proprietor of the military bar while Noble Willingham’s General Taylor who runs interference for Cronauer as long as he can scores solidly in all of his scenes.



    Video Quality

    4/5


    The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and boasts 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. The film has always looked spotty on home video, so this high definition transfer constitutes a major improvement on what has been offered before. Sharpness is good to very good with only occasional scenes that seem a bit soft and indistinct. Color is nicely saturated and retains consistency throughout with pleasing flesh tones that fit the extremely hot conditions of southeast Asia. Black levels are fine, and the image is free from age-related artifacts. The film has been divided into 10 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    4/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix offers some decent surround spread and effective bass management for a film from the late 1980s, but naturally it can’t compete with action comedies filmed today (compared to the audio track of something like Tropic Thunder, this isn’t in the same league). With Robin Williams’ motormouth running on overtime, it’s important that the dialogue presented is clear and clean, and that it is, placed firmly in the center channel. The music, a rich selection of 1960s standards, sounds wonderfully balanced in this lossless mix.



    Special Features

    3.5/5


    All of the video supplements are presented in 480i.


    “Production Diary” presents five featurettes either separately or in one 34 ½-minute collection that present many aspects of the production of the film including information on the genesis of the movie, the importance of improvisation to the film, the period music used in the film, the differences in the real Cronauer’s sign-on and the one Robin Williams coined for the film, and a look back at the film after its very successful release.


    The disc offers 13 ¼ minutes of Robin Williams’ raw monologues as he works and reworks ideas that come to him in rapid fire progression.


    There are two trailers offered on the disc. The teaser trailer runs 1 ½ minutes while the theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.



    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average)


    Looking the best it’s ever looked on home video, Good Morning, Vietnam is a comic field day for Robin Williams. Those looking for a more pointed and scathing indictment of the Vietnam War will have to look for it in other films. This new Blu-ray release comes with a firm recommendation.




    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. dmiller68

    dmiller68 Supporting Actor

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    Great review, this is one of my favorite all time movies. Hands down one of the best sound tracks.
     

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