During a time when the “New Releases” section of the video store features mostly zombies and skateboards (what, no zombies on skateboards?), it’s nice to have a simple family film to turn to.
“Radio” tells the true story of James Robert Kennedy, a developmentally disabled man who earned his titular nickname due to an endless fascination with transistor radios. I say it’s true, but I mean in a Hollywood sense: The film compresses several decades into one year during the 1970s. There is no plot to speak of here, just the unfolding of events as Radio, led by local high school football coach Harold Jones, quietly inserts himself into a small community that isn’t sure they want him.
“Radio” feels at times like a Disney film (screenwriter Mike Rich also wrote Disney’s “The Rookie”) and may be a little too sugar-coated for its own good. Thankfully, Cuba Gooding Jr and Ed Harris, as Radio and Coach Jones, respectively, carry the film. Gooding is nearly always accurate in his portrayal; very seldom does he slip into the silly mugging mode we’ve become accustomed to. This is Cuba Gooding the Oscar® winner here. Likewise, Harris is solid and dependable as a man who wants to be a pillar for Radio and the community, yet can’t seem to make himself available for his own family.
“Radio” pushes no boundaries, breaks no barriers; it simply is what it is: a feel-good film that quietly warms the heart, even if it doesn’t particularly exercise the mind.
Pros: Harris shines. A charming tale about an interesting man.
Cons: A bit too manipulative. For those who are interested in the true story of Mr. Kennedy, you’ll have to take this one with a grain of salt.
Review Rating: 3.5 out of 5…um…radios.
109 Minutes; USA
Rated PG for mild language and themes.
Cuba Gooding Jr. (Radio)
Ed Harris (Coach Jones)
Alfre Woodard (Principal Daniels)
S. Epatha Merkerson (Maggie)
Brent Sexton (Honeycutt)
Chris Mulkey (Frank)
Directed by: Michael Tollin
Written by: Mike Rich, based on a magazine article by Gary Smith (Uncredited).
Viewing Format: Theatrical Release
(Portions of this review originally appeared in my “Video View” newspaper column of 1/28/’04)