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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Radio

Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris
Director: Mike Tollin
Rated: PG
RunTime: 109 Minutes
Release Date: October 2003
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Riley Smith, Sarah Drew, Debra Winger, Chris Mulkey, Brent Sexton, Craig S. Harper, Alfre Woodard

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

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

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