Inspired by the true story of Harold Jones (Ed Harris), a prominent high school football coach in a small South Carolina town during the 1970s, who comes to the aid of James 'Radio' Kennedy (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a mentally-challenged young man being harassed by a small group within his football team. Taking Radio under his wing, Coach Jones becomes a mentor to the young man, allowing him to participate on the sidelines and in school, much to the concern of many of the residents in this small town. As Radio and Coach Jones bond, so does the rest of the community, with their once prejudiced views soon turning into support for this young man, whose kindness and big-hearted nature unites them.
Review by Craig Miller
There is no denying the heart of this overly schmaltzy film (Radio is inspired by the true story of the real 'Radio' Kennedy who has now been at that same South Carolina high school for the best part of four decades), but from its sickly sweet sentiment to its precision sob scenes, it's just another Hollywood hanky drama which aims for the high emotional ground and lacks any great depth.
The aim to go for cheap sentiment is all over Mike Rich's script, who also penned The Rookie and Finding Forrester, with this predictable screenplay focusing on that sensitive emotional funny-bone, and never letting up.
Director Michael Tollin is guilty of the same. There is lots of "He can teach us a lot more than we can teach him", "it's the right thing to do" and "I love you my little cuddly wuddly", all spoken (or paraphrased) with that small-town, hospitable, Southern American charm - Awwww schucks ma'am! - which smacks of stereotyping and highlights a need for deeper character development.
As Tollin will attest to in the director's commentary, he has used a great deal of poetic licence when it comes to the story and the timeline of events in the film, most notably the fact many of the events and circumstances that revolve around Coach Jones and Radio's relationship, span well over thirty years, while in the film it is crammed into just one. And that's a big problem, there is just too much of it.
Cuba Gooding Jr. is arguably where the film is going to sink or swim with the viewer. If you like his performance as the mentally challenged Radio then there is every chance you will like the film. However, if you are the type of person who can't take your eyes off a crappy dental prosthetic or will cringe in certain scenes where it is obvious that Gooding Jr. doesn't have a handle on the eccentricities of playing someone mentally disabled, then it's not going to fair well.
As for the remaining cast, Harris is the standout, and although he walks through this performance with the greatest of ease, there is a solid, stoic nature about his realisation of Coach Jones that does help the story develop and hold your interest when Cuba is off screen.
It's touching, it's sweet, it's well-meaning, it's good natured, it's all the things about the movies we want to see, but, unfortunately, it's also melodramatic and predictable with not enough of that goodness and kind heartedness spent on making sure this touching subject matter translated well to the screen.
Along with the aforementioned commentary, there is a nice collection of deleted scenes with optional commentary that will only be of interest to those who enjoyed the film, and a collection of featurettes which follow the typical DVD formula of having been one decent sized feature cut down, with the best segment being that under the "Tuning in on Radio" heading, a 22-minute making-of feature.
Published: June 17, 2004
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RADIO: DVD (PG)
CAST: Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris, Debra Winger, Alfre Woodard, S. Epatha Merkerson, Brent Sexton, Chris Mulkey, Riley Smith
DIRECTOR: Michael Tollin
SCRIPT: Mike Rich
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
PRESENTATION: Widescreen 1.85:1, 16:9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's Commentary, Deleted scenes with optional director's commentary, Three Featurettes (Tuning in on Radio, Writing Radio, The 12 hour football games of Radio), Filmographies, Trailers, DVD-Rom content.
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia Tristar Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: June 16, 2004