Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Bruno Kirby
Director:  Barry Levinson
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:   Touchstone
Features:  See Review
Length: 121 Minutes
Release Date:  January 17, 2006


“GOOOOOD MORNING VIET NAM !  Hey, this is not a test; this is rock ‘n roll!  Time to rock it from the delta to the DMZ!”


Film ****


What does a disc jockey do when he is suddenly transferred from Crete to Viet Nam in 1965?  Rock the house, of course!  I rarely see a movie in theatres on opening night, but I saw this one.  I distinctly remember laughing so hard I could hardly breathe, but then being rudely awakened when the violence of the war rears its ugly head.  Many viewers apparently only see the film as a vehicle for Williams’ comedy improve skills, but he actually shows a stunning range in his responses as Adrian is ridiculed, betrayed, loved, and honored by those around him. 


Robin Williams’ monologues were based on written material but obviously he improvised continuously.  Not only is he brilliantly funny, but instead of just complaining about war and life in general as actors do on MASH, he made jokes about well-known figures of 1965.  It is revealed in the extras that most members of the production crew were either Asian or British, and they had no idea who most of the jokes were about.  Williams assumed he was bombing every day since no one laughed other than the Americans.  He earned his first well-deserved Oscar nomination for the role.  While the film can be seen as a vehicle for his talent, it is a profound story of soldiers trying to keep sane in the madness of war.  It is also about censorship, hypocrisy, and the good and bad in every culture. 


It is also different from MASH in that it has a fantastic 1965 soundtrack.  Many lesser-known hits such as “Game of Love” “Sugar and Spice” and “ California Sun” leap out at you, recalling an age when the Beatles had just hit and the Stones and the Motown sound were just coming into their own.  Clearly music from home made the soldiers happier.  The montage of the horrors and beauty of Southeast Asia with Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World” is also innovative, and to me is the highlight of the movie. 


We also get to meet the real Adrian Cronauer in the extras, and he reveals that almost all of the movie is fictional, but that he did in fact play rock ‘n roll on Armed Forces Radio and was indeed very popular as a DJ. 


Even though the comparisons to MASH seem obvious to me, they were not obvious to most movie studios, and the writers had to endure many rejections of their “comedy about Vietnam .”  Apparently Vietnam (or at least the counter-culture response to it) was still too raw to potential producers.   But even better than MASH it respectfully shows the beauty of Asia and its people.  It avoids being overly political and shows problems with our military’s actions but also reveals how much of the violence was self-generated in this war-torn country and how American soldiers, more often than not, just did the best they could in impossible circumstances.   


Some of the actors and other production team members say in their interviews that making this movie presented many challenges but was more than worth it, and a very pleasurable experience.  This movie also proves that assembling a great team to work on a great project and then leaving them alone yields excellent results, just as it did with the original MASH movie. 


The menus are also interesting if only because we get to hear highlights of Alex North’s hauntingly beautiful score, which was usually overwhelmed by the film’s monologues and rock ‘n roll soundtrack. 


Video ***1/2


I have not viewed the original DVD release so I am unable to compare them, but I see no flaws in this serviceable transfer. 


Audio ***1/2


While the rear channels are used mainly just for ambience, the sound mix overall is excellent and shines in 5.1. 


Features ***


An extensive production diary is marred by hyperactive editing in which one interviewee barely gets to say more than a few words before moving to the next one.  Director Barry Levinson obviously knows his stuff but also does not seem to like being interviewed.  We do get to meet most of the production team and Cronauer himself, but the extras are not necessarily well-produced themselves by modern standards.  No commentary track. 


The highlight of course is the “Raw monologues” which show bits of the brilliant Williams which did not make it into the film, such as his speculation that Nikita Khrushchev was one of the three stooges and news about an unmanned probe of Uranus.  He also mentions how a cease-fire occurred between India and Pakistan because they had to stop and pass the one rifle back and forth.  He also mentions Jesus LeFleur, the first Puerto Rican NHL player and Gomer Pyle’s reaction to Asian prostitutes.    


Also included is the original theatrical trailer.  It  has a great monologue which was not in the movie and includes Adrian wondering why Frankie Valli sings about Walking Like a Man in a woman’s voice.




One of the best movies of the 1980s and its great soundtrack finally arrive in a presentation worthy of DVD release that will please previous viewers and new ones as well. 

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