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Overall Rating

Awesome: 18.64%
Worth A Look: 13.56%
Average: 8.47%
Pretty Bad: 25.42%
Total Crap33.9%

3 reviews, 41 user ratings

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by EricDSnider

"Cuba Gooding Jr. continues his quest to make everyone in the world hate him"
2 stars

"Radio" begins with the title character, a mentally retarded South Carolina man played by Cuba Gooding Jr., having the opportunity to be hit by a train. The train misses him. The film goes downhill from there.

I do not believe the individuals responsible for "Radio" actually attempted to make a good movie. I suppose one of them might have said, "Should we try to make a different or interesting or thoughtful or compelling movie?," but everyone shouted him down, saying, "No, let's just make a really generic one." Then they all got in their Corollas, drove to their favorite Italian restaurant Olive Garden, went shopping at KMart, then went home to wrap up the evening watching "Everybody Loves Raymond."

This is a movie that cannot accurately be said to have failed because it doesn't seem to have tried anything. It doesn't even make simple goals for itself. It only aims at getting Pavlovian responses from audiences too sleepy to realize they're being manipulated: Touching Moment, music cue, cry; Underdog Victory, music cue, cry; Retarded Guy, music cue, cry.

It's based on a true story, set in 1976 in Anderson, S.C., a town where high school sports, especially football, are all that matters. Radio, a man of indeterminate age and unknown dental origin, spends his days pushing a shopping cart around town and listening to a radio. It is because he likes the radio, in fact, that he gets his nickname. For this reason, I now wish to be known as Chocolate Pop-Tarts.

Anyway, sometimes he stands outside the fence while the football team is practicing, and one day when the coach isn't looking, the team ties up Radio with masking tape, pushes him into a shed, and throws footballs at it from the outside. This seems like an odd form of punishment, since the shed is spacious and Radio is several feet away from the wall being thrown at, but it's the best the team -- led by the mildly rebellious Johnny Clay (Riley Smith) -- can come up with.

The coach finds out, and boy is he ever mad. He is Harold Jones (Ed Harris), a good man, a decent man, the sort of man who loves his family and his job and his country and his pickup truck and his dog (I assume he has a dog). He does not cotton to his young charges tormenting local retarded men. He punishes them by making them run a lot (take note, boys: THAT'S a punishment) and invites Radio to help the team with practice.

Thus begins a montage reminiscent of Disney's "Sports Goofy," in which Radio/Goofy becomes entangled in all sorts of hilarious athletic predicaments, like having footballs hiked at his head and getting in the way of tackle dummies.

The team takes to Radio, slowly, as does the whole town. Soon he is something of a mascot for Anderson, S.C., in a rather creepy and condescending way, being given access to everything and everyone, and being forgiven for anything inappropriate or dangerous he does. Local parent Frank (Chris Mulkey) thinks Radio is a distraction from the team's performance, but he's put in his place. A new cop, unfamiliar with Radio's permission to do whatever he damn well pleases within the city limits, hauls him in for being weird and vagrant on Christmas morning, but that cop gets his, too. Wo betide all who oppose Radio!

With the physical hijinks and outrageous teeth and nearly incoherent yammer speaking pattern, Radio is the funniest character Cuba Gooding Jr. has ever played. Sadly, the character was intended to be taken seriously. Playing a mentally handicapped person is hard work for an actor, and my hat's off to Cuba for even trying it, but he screws it up royally, filling his performance with mannerisms and tics but no soul. He's less embarrassing than I Am Sam, but light years from Rain Man.

Ed Harris is characteristically stoic and admirable as the coach, earnestly performing in what he must have known was going to be an unworthy film. Alfre Woodard plays the school principal, Debra Winger has a small role as the coach's wife, and S. Epatha Merkerson (the lieutenant on "Law & Order") plays Radio's mom. They're all fine.

The director is Michael Tollin, a TV producer who also directed Freddie Prinze Jr.'s "Summer Catch" (2001). But the writer is Mike Rich, whose "Finding Forrester" (2000) and "The Rookie" (2002) were decent films with approximately the same tone as this one. I don't know where he went wrong. Maybe it's time to try a different genre.

What we have here is a movie that is not claw-your-eyes-out bad, but not worth seeing, either. Is it uplifting? Sure, I guess, in a bland sort of way, like seeing a mediocre junior high school production of "The Miracle Worker." "Radio" mostly just needs to be tuned out and forgotten.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/24/03 14:55:23
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/27/16 Lolipopgumdrop Great movie. Shows that we should accept people no matter how different they are. 5 stars
1/20/16 Spelling Error No Spelling Error Buddy 5 stars
4/03/15 Derp Nerp I agree. The story paints Radio in a saintly light. 2 stars
12/05/10 lisseth why are this called "Writers" are allow to put their shit up on internet if no one likes it 1 stars
10/14/09 brad its not the best you'll ever see, but is leaps and bounds above your review writing... 3 stars
1/13/09 Anonymous. pretty good and touching IMO. i didn't think it was horrible like almost everyone else. :P 4 stars
12/08/08 brian Sweet, true, formulaic. Occasionally annoying but full of heart. 4 stars
11/07/08 Toni So maybe it wasn't a great movie, but calling a real person a "tard" is pretty fucked up. 1 stars
10/02/08 Shaun Wallner Boring!! 1 stars
7/30/08 the dork knight What? 1 stars
6/24/08 C. Thomas It's a touching story, and I've always been one for movies based on real-life events. 4 stars
2/10/07 romeo + juliet fun unpleasing 1 stars
11/10/06 Alice Parlier It stimulates evaluation of our moral reasoning, which is much needed. Great film. 5 stars
10/31/06 elle bell I watched the movie in school and i thought it was a great story and really touching! 5 stars
6/16/06 Heather Marie Worse than "Remember The Titans"! 1 stars
12/11/05 Julie I liked the movie . Movies dont always have to be about sex or drugs or action packed 4 stars
2/25/05 John An insult not only to retards, but to the non-retards who watch it. 1 stars
12/29/04 Uncle Salty Make it through without snapping your own neck, I'll give you a cookie. 1 stars
11/27/04 Chaos Fuckin retarded 1 stars
11/23/04 Daniel Pollock I watched and loved Radio. anyone else that thiks otherwise needs to check themselves 5 stars
11/10/04 Misti I found it to be a heartwarming movie. 4 stars
11/05/04 Naka GOD! NO! An insult to the mentally handicapped. 1 stars
8/06/04 DJ this movie was good, and for those who think other wise STUFF IT ASSHOLES, kthx 5 stars
7/26/04 Katie I love this move! I cried three times during it! 4 stars
6/15/04 T. Maj When in doubt, exploit the handicapped 1 stars
3/24/04 Margie feel good movie that didn't make me feel anything but bored :-( good story, bad execution. 3 stars
3/15/04 ozzie best movie i,ve seen in years 5 stars
3/13/04 zaw Very good Flick.. What the hell is Challenged mean! anyways. 5 stars
2/15/04 k86warrior both the film and the acting lacked soul and depth. it was lazily made and predictable. 2 stars
2/12/04 jj a good inspirational movie with pathos. 3 stars
2/09/04 Kitina Blues it's a sad thing to see so many peeple make a mokery out of this great film. U ALL SUK ASS! 5 stars
2/02/04 LIAM JACKSON sensitive coach and his div-brained friend warm up small town america. 3 stars
1/29/04 Tulsa slut CGJr actually good herein&I like it even though I generally can't stand Ed Harris. 4 stars
1/21/04 Betty White Sappy, hopelessly contrived drama; Gooding & Harris give boring performances. 1 stars
11/17/03 Greg perhaps this movie wasn't made for long-winded pompus writers like you. Ever think of that? 4 stars
11/03/03 Spiderfan729 Anyone who don't love Radio, get it through your head! RADIO ROCKS!!! 5 stars
10/29/03 Killer Miller this movie sucked boring stupid overseminental what a waste of time 2 stars
10/27/03 Rosamund if you like to be inspired and entertained........then see kill bill instead 1 stars
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  24-Oct-2003 (PG)
  DVD: 27-Jan-2004



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