Radio

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Radio

Cast:
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Radio

Cast:

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The making of Gigli doesn't seem to have involved many smart choices, but it's hard to fault the casting of unknown actor Justin Bartha as the mentally impaired mobster's son kidnapped by Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Not that Bartha excels in his first (and perhaps only) screen appearance, but his anonymity does allow him to hide his acting in a way most established performers can't. In Radio, the tirelessly enthusiastic Cuba Gooding Jr. takes on a similar role, playing a radio-fixated small-town man of limited mental abilities. He doesn't exactly give a bad performance, but it's hard not to see the "Show me the money!"-shouting, boat-trip-taking Gooding sweating behind the tics and false teeth. Set in a bucolic 1970s South Carolina backwater where every important decision gets made in the local barbershop, Radio co-stars Ed Harris as the local high-school football coach who takes a liking to Gooding after catching some of the football players harassing him. Taking Gooding on as an assistant, Harris starts bringing him out of his shell, even getting him to bond with the football team via a montage sequence set to an AM radio chestnut. All would be well, except that the forces of intolerance fear Gooding, failing to recognize that the developmentally disabled are just like the rest of us, only funnier and more inspiring. Working from a true story (the real-life Radio makes an appearance during the credits) reported in Sports Illustrated by Gary Smith, screenwriter Mike Rich and director Michael Tollin tweak every moment for maximum impact. For example, when nogoodniks keep Gooding from riding on the bus when the rest of the team travels to an away game, he sits in the rain listening to the play-by-play and acting it out on an empty field. Mean people suck, don't they? The presence of Harris, Alfre Woodard, and Debra Winger help distinguish Radio, and youngsters still in need of lessons on caring and sharing might like it. Anyone who already knows better than to taunt the disabled, or former Oscar winners, should probably give it a pass.

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