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(Column) Rice: Just Another Gal from Casper – Watching ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’

Kate Rice


“Good Morning, Vietnam,” released in 1987, is a movie I dig for all sorts of reasons, the main one being a brilliant performance by the legendary Robin Williams. In this flick, Williams plays airman and radio personality Adrian Cronauer. (Cronauer is based on an actual serviceman/DJ, but most of the movie — and character — are fiction.)

When Cronauer hits the airwaves, he delivers the U.S. troops in Vietnam more entertainment than his military superiors are bargaining for. Robin Williams ad-libbed most, if not all, of his on-air bits, so if you’re a fan of his hyper-verbal comedy, that alone is a great reason to watch this show.

Cronauer also falls for a Vietnamese girl — despite the clash of American vs. Vietnamese cultures. His clever way of getting close to Trinh — teaching English — kinda fizzles, but he ends up really enjoying the class, and his adult Vietnamese students — including Trinh’s brother, Tuan. His friendship with Tuan starts out rocky, but soon becomes rock-solid. 

Cronauer’s job, on the other hand, is on shaky ground from the start. Lt. Steven Houk wants him to play Percy Faith and Lawrence Welk (and maybe a polka or two), not James Brown and other “radical” selections he’s fond of spinning. And Sgt. Major Dickerson resents his popularity among the troops, not to mention his lack of military decorum.

“Good Morning, Vietnam” draws comparisons to “M*A*S*H,” and there are definitely similarities. Much like “M*A*S*H,” it’s silly fun one minute, serious the next. My favorite movie moment is an unexpected transition — after being lulled into a false sense of comedy, we’re reminded that war is more than a backdrop for silliness and romance. 

Robin Williams brings the comedy — no surprise there — but he also nails the drama. Watching “Good Morning, Vietnam” has become a bittersweet experience; realizing we lost this performing genius too soon is always gonna sting. 

If you wanna watch a comedy/drama/war flick (look at that — something for everyone!), stream “Good Morning, Vietnam” on whatever platform’s currently offering it, or order a copy on DVD/Blu-Ray through places like Amazon or downtown’s Sonic Rainbow.

A DVD release of the 1987 movie “Good Morning, Vietnam.” (Kate Rice)