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Directed by Michael Tollin.
Written by Mike Rich.
Starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ed Harris. 
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  11/11/03 


Finally got around to catching the Cuba Gooding, Jr. drama “Radio”...and, I was pleased even if I probably won’t ever watch the movie again.

That’s what it is, really, about the Matinee rating—hey, it’s a good film, good enough more likely, but there’s nothing about it that will intrigue me to ever see the movie again.  Gooding stars as Radio, a handicapped 20-something living in South Carolina in 1976.  Every day, he walks by the local high school with a shopping cart, talking to no one but listening to an old transistor radio that he has stashed within his belongings in the cart.  One day, while walking by the high school’s football field, he catches a football that was mistakenly kicked over the fence and tucks it into his cart before walking away.  After being attacked by some of the players after practice one day, the team’s coach (Ed Harris) tries to make things up to Radio by offering him a spot as an assistant to the team, which magically changes his life forever**.

Gooding makes very interesting film choices for a man that is an Oscar-winning actor; I don’t even remember what the name of the film was where he was cavorting around on that gay cruise line a few months ago, but the film tanked.  And, who can forget “Chill Factor”, a film that actually used the same storyline as “Speed” (drive a vehicle above 55 miles an hour or it will explode) but changed the vehicle from a bus ice cream truck!!  But, when he does drama, things normally go quite well for Gooding and he is great as the title character in “Radio.”  He handles both the comedic moves and the dramatic elements later in the film with equal aplomb (first time I’ve used that word in a Bellview) and the scenes with both Gooding and Harris are at times touching.  Alfre Woodard is always great, so her role as the school’s principal is carried off quite well.  I was very intrigued that South Carolina had black principals in the late 70s, and that outside of the first scene of the movie, race is almost a non-issue in “Radio.”  I am sure that part of this is that I am not giving South Carolina enough credit; I have been there many times now, as part of my Southern Road Trip, but I still don’t believe the state to be the beacon of interracial relations, you know?

The film runs on too long in its last half-hour, and by the very end, I was just glad it was over.  Another big thing I had with “Radio”—and, this might just be me—was right to the point of what Woodard’s character voices halfway through the movie.  I was uncomfortable with the idea that Radio—whose actual handicap is never fully explained—was suddenly damn near the school mascot, the way he was serving as a sideshow during the football games.  Part of me wonders how many of the fans at those games weren’t laughing AT Radio, not WITH him.  Like, how many of the fans were saying to their friends

“That Radio, he sure is funny!” versus

“Look at that retard dance!”

whenever he would run from the sideline to the cheerleaders and dance around with their pom-poms and smile to the crowd.  I don’t know, it was just a little strange to me and I never fully got comfortable with that element of the film.  As time goes on, everyone comes to know Radio and then it seemed very honest that everyone in town would embrace the kid.  But, the movie seems to treat his initial antics at the games like everyone loves the guy, which I don’t really believe is the truth.

Otherwise, I dropped seven bones, and I’m happy with that.  I was also happy that at the end of “Radio”, they show us the real Radio, which is always a nice touch for these movies based on true stories.

Rating:  Matinee

**when in doubt, employ highly overused clichés.  Aww yeah.


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09