Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris, Alfre Woodard, Debra Winger…
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris, Alfre Woodard, Debra Winger
Director: Michael Tollin
Cuba Gooding, Jr. has obviously forgotten that at one time he graced the stage at the Academy Awards. Since his Best Supporting Actor win for “Jerry Maguire,” he has starred in a continuous string of undeniably forgettable films. “Radio” is no exception.
Based on a true story, the film stars Gooding as James Robert “Radio” Kennedy, a mentally disabled man living in a small South Carolina town during the 1970s. He is befriended by the local high school football coach Howard Jones (Ed Harris), who, despite the disapproval of the school board, takes Radio in as the team’s personal mascot.
As the movie progresses, the audience is made to believe that Radio endures many hardships and, with Jones’s help, wins the hearts of the narrow-minded townspeople. If this plotline sounds tired and boring, try watching it without wondering how the experience compares to getting shot with high doses of elephant tranquilizers. Chances are, the two are pretty equal.
The reason for the tedium of “Radio” is obvious. The film is wrong on so many levels that no amount of suspension of disbelief can legitimize it. For one, it’s such a feel-good movie that conflict among the characters is practically non-existent. The animosity toward Radio, or his mentor Jones, is quickly resolved and avoids escalating into anything serious. Because of this, the film drags into two hours of unnecessary, manipulative sap, ending with the realization that the community never had any real problems with Radio in the first place.
Since there are no moments of tension among the characters, many of them are underdeveloped and uninteresting. Harris’s performance, for example, is narrowed down to strutting around in tight fitting bell-bottoms and spouting idiotic lines of nonsense like, “We’re not teaching Radio, Radio is teaching us.”
Gooding, on the other hand, starts out with potential but ends up looking goofy rather than severely handicapped. The chemistry between the characters also suffers due to the film’s inadequacies. Because the film never fully investigates the background of either Radio or Jones, the motivation behind the unlikely friendship is never revealed.
In the end, one questions how a film with such a high suck factor got into theaters when it actually should have been premiering on the Hallmark channel. The explanation might include director Michael Tollin’s past involvement with the small screen. Tollin directed such television shows as the short-lived puppet fiasco “Cousin Skeeter,” before trying his hand at feature films. He also continues to produce shows like the WB’s “One Tree Hill.” With a background full of crap like that, how could he not soil the screen with such an unsatisfying movie?
Radio opens on Fri., Oct. 24.