Release: October 24, 2003
by Kevin Lang
At the very end of "Radio," I watched as the real life Radio was shown leading the team onto the T.L. Hanna high school football field in South Carolina. It was the perfect ending to a movie that offered a breath of fresh air in a film season that has offered little to savor.
"Radio" told the inspiring and heartfelt story of James Robert Kennedy, a mentally challenged young black man, who in the mid 1970s spent his afternoons walking past the local high school football field in the small town of Anderson, South Carolina. Alone with only his shopping cart, James watched coach Harold Jones (Ed Harris) instruct his team during practice. It wasn't long before the team noticed James, especially after he decided to keep a stray football that came over the fence nearby.
After an unfortunate incident involving some of the boys on the team, coach Harold befriended James, and invited him to work as his assistant. It was a decision that would forever change the lives of both individuals, not to mention the face of T.L. Hanna High School. At first, everyone reacted differently to James, who they nicknamed Radio because of his fascination with such devices. It wasn't long before some people in the town complained that Radio was a distraction to the coach and subsequently the team.
Watching Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ed Harris onscreen, I soon forgot the awkwardness of the missing armrest next to me. Their performances were nothing short of excellent, especially that of Cuba Gooding Jr. At times, mere glances with his eyes were enough to tell the story, superbly conveying Radio's feelings to the audience, especially before we heard him speak at the beginning. Ed Harris's character enjoyably complemented Cuba's, and the two developed a very believable and enjoyable onscreen friendship.
Aside from the acting, one of the most impressive things about "Radio" was that, by the end of the film, almost every character had been believably changed in some way. From the coach to his wife and daughter, to the players on the team, they were all in some way noticeably different by the film's end. This included Radio himself, who had found a place for himself in a world where most people had barely cared to notice him. This is a difficult task for most films to pull off convincingly with one character, let alone several. Director Michael Tollin and screenwriter Mike Rich deserve to be commended.
In the end, "Radio" was a remarkable film. James Horner's musical score brilliantly highlighted nearly every scene, blending flawlessly with the unfolding story. It was a story that embraced the very essence of living, reminding us of virtues that can make us all a little bit better.
There will be some critics who call "Radio" a manipulative crowd pleaser, saying that it's too warm, that it's full of good messages and clichés, and that the real world is not like that. No, most often the real world is not like it is in "Radio." However, on rare occasions it is, and we need to be told about such moments. We need to be given the chance to embrace and learn from these occurrences.
"Radio" Review written October 13, 2003, CTF.
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