Radio Movie Review
Cuba Gooding, Jr. has spent the better portion of a decade proving that his Oscar-winning performance in Jerry Maguire was a fluke, with such horrors as Snow Dogs, The Fighting Temptations and Boat Trip - among others - there to blemish his career. His latest film, Radio, marks his return to drama, but is it enough to save him?
Radio has Gooding playing the title character, whose real name is James Robert Kennedy. Radio is a mentally disabled young man who spends his days walking around his South Carolina town with very little to do. He doesn't talk much and at times is harassed by people. However, the local football coach, Coach Jones (Ed Harris), takes a liking to him and allows him to help out with the team. Soon, Radio becomes an unlikely inspiration for the team and the community. So, in other words, the movie is a PG-rated, feel good drama that is about as formulaic as they get, even though it is based on a true story.
Radio isn't a bad movie, as long as you don't mind somewhat forced drama and predictable scenes. It is entertaining and rarely boring, but not completely captivating, either. Most of the characters are easy to like, but it is hard to ever really care for them, either. All in all, it will appeal to families looking for light entertainment, but not those looking for something even remotely powerful.
Gooding, Jr. does a fairly good job as Radio, but as we only get to see the real guy for a few seconds at the end of the movie, it is hard to tell just how good of a portrayal it is. After all, the Radio in the movie is sort of a goofy-looking guy with bad teeth and a stereotypical voice; perhaps this is close to the real thing, but perhaps it is not. Gooding, who is not my favorite actor, is believable but never really moving. Some say that he is extraordinary here; others can't stand him. In reality, he is somewhere in between, but compared to Sean Penn, who played a mentally disabled man in I Am Sam, he is nothing.
Most annoying about Radio is that the movie is less about the man than those around him. Ed Harris actually gets a lot more screen time (he's pretty good, though not as good as Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans) and should easily be labeled as the lead character. His character is interesting enough, but it seems as though those in charge thought that Radio was too simple of a person to examine. Just because someone is mentally disabled does not mean that he is any less complex - just different. Nevertheless, Radio never explores who he is; it never examines his history. By the end of the movie, it is quite clear that he likes radios and football, but I still do not know who he really is.
Radio is an enjoyable film to watch with the family, but never really reaches where it wants to be. It lacks the power, direction and focus of a good drama, but if you don't need that, then Radio might be worth seeing.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.