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Rated PG-13; running time of 108 minutes
Genre: Family/Comedy/True Story
Written by: Mike Rich
Directed by: Michael Tollin
Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris, Debra Winger, Alfre Woodard, S. Epatha Merkerson, Riley Smith, Joseph E.G. Barrett and Chris Mulkey
WARNING - SPOILERS BELOW.
The small town of Anderson, South Carolina has one real passion - high school sports. Particularly football and Coach Harold Jones (Ed Harris) is the E.F. Hutton of the town. When he comes by the local the barbershop after each game, people listen. The folks of the town pretty much give him free reign with the boys as long as he wins games. Free reign until he introduces James "Radio" Robert Kennedy (Cuba Gooding Jr.) into the team.
Radio is a young mentally challenged young man who walks passed practice everyday with a shopping cart filled with odd knick-knacks and a radio. A group of the football players see that as an opportunity to do a little "harmless" fun, so they grab Radio tie him up and stick him in a storage closet. The coach is furious and Radio is terrified.
The coach notices that Radio appears to like football and to make amends for the behavior of his team; he takes Radio under his wing and invites him to help out. Radio is a natural. But it's not shouting out the plays; or doing the busywork chores; or even cheerleading - Radio has is a source of inspiration for the entire team and soon for the entire town. Everyone loves Radio, everyone except for the few parents who find him a distraction and the reason they lose football games. But the coach doesn't care. Not only is he determined to keep Radio involved in the team, he has start to bring him to school to take subjects and have him enrolled in the 11th grade.
All goes well until the same old football player continues to pick on Radio and the players father uses it as an excuse to cause trouble. Will Radio be banned from the school and football team? Will the coach who has made Radio a priority even over his family give in to the pressure being exerted by the booster club?
My first thought was "Oh Lord. Here we go again. Yet another white man being portrayed as the savior of a black man. This time it's a black man-child." Okay then I find out that it's a true story. Well I certainly can't hate on that. So I'm feeling better about the movie and it's quite good actually. Radio is manipulative, sappy, and predictable, but good. It was too good to be true. I'm not the type of person that looks for racism under every reel of film. But sometimes it's just too blatant that I can't help but comment on it and it really pisses me off when it is presented to the viewer as harmless family entertainment. The writer of this story would have us believe that only the white folks in the town actually give a damn about the black man-child. Only in passing is it mentioned that Radio lives with his older brother Walter. It is not my intention to take anything away from Coach Jones. He clearly went above and beyond the call of duty in his commitment to Radio. But the fact that the filmmakers left out Radio's family (aside from his mother and brief mention of his brother) is reprehensible and disgusting and they should be ashamed of themselves. And why is that I ask? Coach Jones is already a sainted human being. Do we need to see the great white savior held up in even higher esteem at the expense of Radio's family?
Aside from the hatchet job done to Radio's family, this was a good movie. it was enjoyable and well-acted. It was wonderful to see Debra Winger back on the screen and Ed Harris turned in a wonderfully compassionate turn as Coach Jones. Cuba Gooding was awesome and made some of the heart wrenching scenes achingly believable. In fact, you forget that Cuba actually isn't mentally challenged. He really threw himself into the role and is deserving of some accolades for his portrayal of Radio.
If you don't know or care about the back story and just want to enjoy a decent movie, then by all means, see this one.
Good movie, but the writers were tuned into the wrong station.
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Copyright Kamal "The Diva" Larsuel-Ulbricht, 2003