RADIO, directed by Michael Tollin (SUMMER CATCH) and written by Mike Rich (THE
ROOKIE), is unabashedly schmaltzy but touching nonetheless. It's a PG-rated
family film that stars Cuba Gooding Jr. in his first good performance in a long
time. Gooding plays James Robert Kennedy, a sweet simpleton with downcast eyes
and badly formed teeth who spends his life pushing a Piggly Wiggly shopping
cart around his small town. James gets the nickname of Radio from his
fascination with and collection of radios of all kinds. The film is "inspired
by a true story," and we get to see the real Radio, now in his fifties, in
action in some poignant footage at the end of the picture.
The inspiring story kicks off with a school prank gone horribly bad. A bunch
of the football players on Coach Harold Jones's (Ed Harris) team at T. L. Hanna
High School tie up Radio and lock him in a dark shed. The coach, a classic
good old boy (the story is set in Anderson, South Carolina in 1976), does more
than just punish the players with extra wind sprints; he effectively adopts
Radio, making him the team's mascot, cheerleader and ballboy. A young man of
an indeterminate age, Radio is mentally handicapped. When he speaks, he is
barely audible, but, firmly under the coach's wing, he begins to blossom.
Helping out the team, he also finds meaning and real happiness for the first
time, something that his poor mother, played by S. Epatha Merkerson ("Law &
Order"), tries to give him when she isn't working long hours at the hospital.
The coach loves his football more than just about anything on earth, including
his family, which consists of a supportive but undemanding wife, Linda (Debra
Winger), and a needy but equally undemanding daughter, Mary Helen (Sarah Drew).
The moral of the story seems to be that there's more to life than football.
(The movie, however, features lots of good sports action but, thankfully,
eschews the classic big ending game structure.) The coach realizes that
helping the helpless is what he wants most of all from life.
RADIO is a story of sacrifice and love that blatantly tugs at your heartstrings
but is easy to forgive since it does so honestly and openly. It's also
sometimes as funny as it is melodramatic. If you're in the mood for a
good-spirited message movie, RADIO would be a fine choice.
RADIO runs 1:49. The film is rated PG for "mild language and thematic
elements" and would be acceptable for all ages.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes