How can a movie set in Saigon in the 1960s be so hilarious, One answer: Robin Williams in “Good Morning Vietnam (1987).
Williams plays Adrian Cronauer, who has been stationed in Vietnam as a DJ for an American radio station. His assignment is simple – play songs and report good news. At first, Cronauer doesn’t seem like an anarchist. He certainly doesn’t intend on rattling any cages, other than simply by his wild humour. Rather, he sees things rationally, especially when his superiors dictate what news to report on the air. He’s indignant and disobeys them. His superiors chastise his insubordination and eventually take him off the air.
Williams’s performance is awesome. He finds a delicate balance between showing off his substantial comedic chops, while maintaining a worldly naiveté in the midst of great human suffering (South Vietnam) and corruption (American military).
Williams’ character, as well as the film as a whole, takes on a sadder tone. Cronauer struggles to hold on to his optimism about the world, specifically his allegiance to the United States. Thus, the sad montage of the suffering of the Vietnamese while Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” plays underneath is poignant. The sequence comes from Cronauer’s point of view, as if he’s singing the song in an attempt to convince himself amongst so much human misery.
“Good Morning Vietnam” transcends genre. It’s not just a comedy, or a war movie, or a movie about censorship; rather it’s a perfect union of each of these elements.