A film about how an unorthodox DJ is assigned to the US ARS (Armed Services Radio) station in Vietnam.
Adrian Cronauer, played by Robin Williams, is a fast talking and witty DJ, who is brought in to bring a little more life to the radio. He is hired due to his comedy, and while some people don’t like him, whether through actual different taste, his tendency to not follow orders, or maybe jealousy.
Despite being set in the Vietnam War, the film never truly focuses on it, this isn’t about the war, this is about Cronauer. The journey of a man who tries to make people laugh in a situation where one normally wouldn’t. Williams improvised all of his radio broadcast, bringing loads of energy to his role as Cronauer, and makes you wonder if all of the people laughing in the background are actually laughing or if they’re just acting. However, with some of the lines Williams makes and by the looks on their faces, I’m betting on real laughter.
Cronauer changes throughout the film, a man who uses comedy in almost every aspect of his life, using his one-liners and comedic ability to challenge command, pick up girls, protect his friends, and maybe even himself. Comedy can be seen as a self-defence against things that can harm you, after all, how can it harm you if it makes you laugh, if you never take it seriously enough? Cronauer by the end of it no longer becomes a man who jokes about everything, maybe because of all that he’s been through he can feel the weight of how something can’t always be joked about. A moment comes after something happens to him which causes him to almost breakdown and give up, how the army censors everything he is allowed to say, he decides to go against the rules. He tells the truth, and he has an annoyance with this before he starts but this time he doesn’t care for the rules. Maybe because this time he was there to witness what happened, or maybe because he was in it.
There is a scene where Cronauer meets a truck load of soldiers who all listen and love him. Initially reluctant to speak and just wanting to leave, he does get up and start speaking, getting more and more into his role, acting just like he would on the radio, and seeing in person how he makes these people laugh, people that are going into dangerous areas. Despite the fact these people are going into a war zone, yet laugh and joke around with Cronauer shows him just how much of an effect he has on all these people, an effect he has never seen, an effect he might never have known he’d have. It’s a touching moment when he says goodbye and you can see the emotions clear on his face, realising just how much these people might need him, probably the only thing in this war that can make them smile.
This film reminds me that comedy is necessary, but that it should be used when appropriate. Many use comedy as a barrier, some form of protection against their problems. Although those who use it that way sometimes don’t count for others, don’t often realise that while they are protecting themselves, they might hurt someone else. Comedy is used to make people laugh, and if it starts to hurt, it’s not comedy.