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RADIO

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris, Alfre Woodard, Debra Winger
Director: Mike Tollin
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 109 Minutes
Release Date: January 27, 2004

“I know some of you don’t know or don’t care about all that Radio’s learned over these past few months. Well, the truth is…we’re not the ones who’ve been teaching Radio. Radio’s the one been teaching us."

Film ***1/2

No matter how often they seem to be thrown in our direction, films inspired by true stories still manage to make effective moviegoing experiences. Such is the case of Radio, a movie that something of a big occasion for my area since the story takes place no more than 45 minutes from my hometown. The movie was actually shot a bit in and around the very town of Anderson, SC. The fact that it was filmed a little and take place near where I live doesn't make it a great movie by any means, but the fact is that Radio is a piece of downright feel good movie entertainment at its very best.

The story's central character, and all around heart, is that of James Robert Kennedy, Jr., who goes by the name of Radio. He is portrayed by Cuba Gooding, Jr. in one the actor's strongest screen performances since Jerry Maguire. Radio is a mentally disabled young man who has a love for three things in his life; the small radio he carries with him, his loving and caring mother, and T.L. Hanna High School, where every day, Radio observes the varsity football team's daily practice.

One day, he catches the attention of the football team's coach, Harold Jones (Ed Harris). Having taking a liking to the unique individual, Coach Jones eventually allows Radio to become a designated helper on the team, helping out in practice and being able to view the games directly from the sidelines alongside the coaches. Coach Jones sees Radio as a sort of motivational tool for the team, while fellow players, as well as members of the team booster club see him as more of a distraction.

The reason for Coach Jones feeling the need to lend out a kind hand to Radio isn't so much clear, but following an earlier stunt involving the team locking Radio up in a shed, it could be considered something that the coach simply feels he needs to make up to the young man. At the same time, the coach can easily show his players how cruel they were in the beginning, even if they saw the incident as a harmless prank by expressing the benefits of a little good old human compassion.

There are many sporting sequences in the film, but Radio is hardly a sports movie. Its heart is more in the story of the special bond between the determined football coach and the unique individual who eventually becomes a special part of the high school he has so much love for. Before long, Radio is soon being accepted into classes in the school, on behalf of the coach, despite reservations from the school board who aren't too thrilled about trying to teach a mentally challenged individual.

Radio ranks with the likes of In America and Seabiscuit as one of the best feel-good movies of the year. It's hard to resist a movie with a cast like this and a story so truly inspiring. And the truth is that I'm sure anyone will be happy that they chose to experience this touching story in the end.

Video ***1/2

Columbia Tri Star's anamorphic transfer is of acceptable and near-excellent quality. Image quality is sharp and clear for the most part, give or take an instance of visible change in the level of dimming in one brief shot. Other than that, this is one presentation that shines and soars like the story it tells.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 track actually surprised me in a few areas. Sequences of football and basketball games are splendidly rendered with super crisp audio, making the noise of the crowd seem like they're sitting all around you. The story is set in the late 70s, which means various 70s rock and soul music classics appear in the soundtrack, each of which is heard magnificently. Quite a nice piece of sound.

Features ***1/2

CTS kicks a good field goal with a nice set up of sideline bonuses. Included is a commentary with director Mike Tollin, three featurettes; "Tuning in on Radio", "Writing Radio", and "The 12-hour Football Games of Radio". Also featured are deleted scenes and trailers, including bonus trailers for Big Fish, Mona Lisa Smile, Something's Gotta Give, and Rudy.

Summary:

Pure and simple, Radio will put a warm spot in your heart with its remarkable story and strong performances. It also represents an example of surefire, uplifting family friendly entertainment that everyone is sure to enjoy very much.