Movies of 1987 Bracket Game: Lethal Weapon Vs. Good Morning Vietnam

lethal-weapon-vs-good-morning-vietnam

Today’s match pairs two rising stars against each other at the moments when their careers took shape.  Robin Williams and Mel Gibson were among Hollywood’s most sought-after leading men.  And they can both trace their A-list status back to the movies they headlined in 1987.  Gibson costarred opposite Danny Glover in the buddy-cop movie that defined the genre.  And Williams received his first-ever Oscar nomination for playing a zany army DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Service during the Vietnam Conflict.

Before we get into today’s A-list dust-up, we’ve got to close out the first round of our game.

1987

Our final match of the first round was a bit lopsided.  Mel Brooks’ sci-fi spoof, Spaceballs, couldn’t keep up with the Coen brothers’ cult comedy, Raising Arizona.  That means the Nicolas Cage-Holly Hunter comedy will become the final movie in our elite eight.

Robin Williams made the transition from TV to movies in 1980 with the big screen adaptation of Popeye. But it took seven years before Williams had his first real hit movie.  Prior to 1987, the comic actor best known for playing Mork from Ork was on a losing streak.  But Good Morning Vietnam changed all that.  The movie allowed Williams to cut loose with his manic, stream-of-consciousness comedy while also plumbing some dramatic depths.

Two years later. Williams followed up Good Morning, Vietnam with a supporting role in Dead Poets Society which also allowed him to blend his stand-up comic style into a dramatic performance.  After his second Best Actor nomination, Williams became Hollywood’s go-to guy for dramatic-comedies.  Williams’ long career went off in different directions from that point, but ultimately Good Morning, Vietnam paved the way for his eventual Oscar win for Goodwill Hunting in 1997.

Mel Gibson spent the early 1980’s transitioning from Australian movies to Hollywood.  In 1984, Gibson made his American debut in the drama, The River.  Gibson had a taste of success the following year with his final turn as Mad Max, but it wasn’t until Lethal Weapon in 1987 that he had a Hollywood hit.  Knowing a good thing when he saw it, Gibson made the Lethal Weapon franchise into the backbone of his career for the next several years.  Lethal Weapons 2, 3 and 4 continued Gibson’s hit parade which afforded him the opportunity to direct.

Gibson made his directorial debut in 1993 with the drama, The Man Without a Face.  The movie wasn’t a hit, but it was sandwiched between blockbusters like Lethal Weapon 3 and Maverick which may as well have been Lethal Weapon of the West.  Two years later, Gibson got another shot at the director’s chair with Braveheart for which he took home two Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director.

Few actors enjoy the critical and commercial success Gibson experienced in the 80’s and 90’s.  That started with the first Lethal Weapon and was maintained through its sequels.  Without his lucrative franchise, Gibson probably never would have had a chance to direct his Oscar-winning opus.

Which of these career-defining movies is your favorite?

 

Posted on January 10, 2017, in bracket game, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I know I’m in the minority here, but my experience in watching the first Lethal Weapon movie is that it was singularly unpleasant, including possessing a tenuous grasp on actual psychology and a scene that plays as torture porn. You are completely accurate in saying that it was the ethos which apparently made Gibson a star. With 20/20 hindsight, some of his career comes off as distasteful, including his really embarrassing gay act in Bird on a Wire and his fact-free historical epic (with more torture porn).

    I’m stuck at home again today due to snow and if you put these two movies on top of my BluRay player with no other choices to be had I would watch Good Morning Vietnam and spend the rest of my day reading.

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    • LOL. I completely agree with you on Bird on a Wire. We had a sneak preview of that movie at the UK theater. The house was packed and the audience was eating the movie up. I won’t pretend like I was as sensitive to those sort of things in 1990 as I am today, but Gibson’s mincing around was really embarrassing and unfunny even then.

      I don’t have the same level of distaste for Lethal Weapon that you do. But I won’t disagree that it’s an unpleasant movie with little basis in reality. I can’t remember the last time I actually watched it from start to finish. I definitely prefer the lighter sequel, But I get why some people respond to grittiness of the original. That’s not my jam.

      Given the choice you described, I’d also watch Good Morning Vietnam. But I’d probably be interrupted long before I finished it. I got the new Twin Peaks book for Christmas and I’ve barely managed to make a dent in it! Now, if I had the house to myself, that would be a different story.

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    • I can let a lot of those minor things in “Lethal Weapon” slide (I agree with you on the psychological aspects; if a police force let a guy like that run loose, they’d have serious Internal Affairs issues), but “Bird on a Wire” (I do like the Leonard Cohen song of the same name)) and “Braveheart”? Yeah, I could never overcome the issues I have with those two films.

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      • I have a psychology degree and I it used to bother me when movies were inaccurate about the subject I was studying. I eventually had to learn to overcome that. It had the potential to ruin a lot of movies.

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        • Same here; the way I look at it, some of the textbooks I received while studying Psychology used characters in film as indications of disorders (like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction” for Borderline Personality Disorder, though I’m not really positive on that diagnosis, and I wish the Borderline term was changed to something less vague. How about Emotional Personality Disorder or Irregular Personality Disorder?).

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        • It used to be much more top of mind back when I was actually studying Psych. But I haven’t used any of that in ages. I can still dredge up the basics. But back then I’d hear the Hollywood version of what I was studying and it would pull me right out of the picture. As soon as I heard a certain Psych phrase in a movie like Primal Fear, I knew exactly where the movie was headed.

          But that’s probably how anyone feels when a subject they have some experience in is fictionalized. These days, I see movies about bloggers (they make those, right?) and I yell at the screen:

          “It’s not like that! Steve Guttenberg only occasionally wakes me up crying into the phone!”

          😉

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        • I heard it worked out for Steve Guttenberg’s character in that film though, he stopped listening to the naysayers (I think the film was titled “The Naysayers” actually) and went on to become America’s Ambassador to Great Britain.

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        • At this point, that appointment wouldn’t surprise me…

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  2. Really enjoying the latest bracket game! Will you be covering other decades by any chance as well?

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  3. “Lethal Weapon” again for me. Ever since that one poster mentioned that Robin Williams looks like Ed O’Neill for the “Good Morning, Vietnam” advertisement I can’t stop making the comparison. What, are we going “Dutch”?

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