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Awesome: 18.64%
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3 reviews, 41 user ratings

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by Collin Souter

"I Am Ham"
2 stars

Movies about mentally challenged people overcoming incredible obstacles will usually win over the sympathies of your average non-discriminatory filmgoer, or so many writers/directors believe. I wanted to like “Radio,” just as I want to like any movie I see, but it becomes apparent early on that the filmmakers believe you’ll unquestionably like the main character so much, you won’t mind spending two smooth-sailing hours with him in which nothing really happens. “Radio” does not want to shake or rattle its audience. It doesn’t even want to put them on the edge of their seats. It just wants everything to go down as smooth as the India Arie “we are all God’s children” ballad that closes the movie.

In fact, “Radio” (also the name of our main character) carries a tone that attempts to put the viewer in the position of easing off on their criticism. It almost seems as though the makers might at some point jump onto the screen and cry, “How DARE you criticize! It’s a TRUE story about a man with a disability! Have you NO heart?” Furthermore, the characters on screen react to everything Radio (Cuba Gooding Jr.) does as though he’s the wacky neighbor on your average sitcom. In some instances, Radio will do something childish and charming and the onlookers will smile and look at one another as if to say, “That’s our Radio!”

Plus, nobody ever really overcomes any obstacles in “Radio.” Simple problems erupt, they cause a slight rift and then the problem gets solved in a matter of one or two scenes. The real main character, Harold Jones (Ed Harris), coaches high school football. On the field, he notices a strange kid named James Kennedy (Gooding) who pushes around a shopping cart full of junk. Coach Jones notices the kid watching the football team with great interest. The football players also notice James and decide to play a prank on him by locking him up in a shed and scaring him.

This prompts Coach Jones to take an active interest in him. He nicknames the kid Radio, because he always seems to have a transistor radio up to his ear and seems happiest when listening to an old Motown pop song. Radio becomes something of a mascot to this football team. He becomes their tackling dummy at practice time, he cleans the towels, he jumps along with the cheerleaders (one of whom, of course, happens to be Coach Jones’ daughter, Mary) and eventually becomes a classmate and hall monitor.

Radio lives with his mother, who gives him plenty of love and support and approves of his new life as an overall high school mascot. She also approves of his friendship with Coach Jones. Pretty much everybody approves of Radio’s existence, save for the football/basketball star, Johnny Clay (Riley Smith), and his father (Chris Mulkey) who cannot stand the idea of the team losing half of their games because of Radio’s tendency to yell out the plays to the other team. This is one of those football-crazed towns where all the unmarried men hang out at a barbershop 24/7 to talk high school athletics (this was obviously before somebody decided to start a railroad club). Eventually, a typically soulless, bureaucratic worry-wart investigates Radio’s plight and makes a plea for him to be sent away.

But, don’t worry. Everything will be fine. Yes, everything you see happening in “Radio” will be resolved and calculated so you don’t have to invest a single IQ point of intellect. Just sit back, relax and know that no harm will come to any character you see on screen. The overbearing score has been cranked up to 11, so as to pre-program your emotions (you WILL feel excitement and danger when the football team does their running exercises. Dammit, you will!). The movie takes place in 1976, and it has all the Greatest Hits from that era so you can ease into that time frame. Trust me, everything will work out just fine.

In other words, one can’t really get worked up over anything in “Radio.” It basically tells the story of a mentally challenged guy who hangs out at a high school where he feels genuinely accepted. Period. The end. Sure, we wonder why Coach Jones feels the need to help this guy out and once we get that soliloquy out of the way, it’s on with the show. And, yeah, Coach Jones has the one teenage daughter on the planet who actually wants her dad around more often and feels slighted when he takes a bigger interest in helping Radio, but not to worry. It will all be solved in a scene or two.

As such, “Radio” consists of many one-note performances. As Radio, Cuba Gooding Jr. does what one would expect a Hollywood actor to do with this kind of role. Smile, curl up your hands, walk hunched over and be really, really showy about it. Ed Harris, always a great presence in any movie, basically smiles a lot. Debra Winger has again been forced into a token role, that of Harris’ wife, who offers love and support as well as the occasional lecture when prodded to do so by Mike Rich’s cliché-ridden script.

The makers of “Radio” would like us to walk out feeling good and inspired. Footage of the real-life Radio and Coach Jones should make us feel in awe, or at least forgiving of the movie’s shortcomings. It’s as though the filmmakers are poking us in the ribs and saying, “See? Told ya’. It’s a true story.” Okay, fine. Why tell it? To lay down the law on how to treat those less fortunate than yourself? To show that mentally challenged people can read a lunch menu over an intercom just like anybody else? Or, perhaps I’m not cynical enough, because we may as well just say it loud and clear. Why did this movie get made? Sheer, unadulterated Oscar bait.

Not likely. “Radio” will sure please those with simple tastes and anybody looking for a harmless and fruitless night out, but it shouldn’t be taken anymore seriously than a Best Song nominee (that’s a prediction, by the way). Like this year’s other pseudo-inspirational claptrap “A View From The Top,” this movie will not rattle your senses in the slightest. At most, you may grow frustrated at how slight and airy the material becomes the longer it goes on. I liken the experience to having someone explain to me their screenplay idea that has virtually no hook or substance. I pretty much just sit there and think, “Okay, fine…then what happens?”

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8274&reviewer=233
originally posted: 10/24/03 06:19:56
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/26/16 Lolipopgumdrop Great movie. Shows that we should accept people no matter how different they are. 5 stars
1/19/16 Spelling Error No Spelling Error Buddy 5 stars
4/02/15 Derp Nerp I agree. The story paints Radio in a saintly light. 2 stars
12/04/10 lisseth why are this called "Writers" are allow to put their shit up on internet if no one likes it 1 stars
10/13/09 brad its not the best you'll ever see, but is leaps and bounds above your review writing... 3 stars
1/12/09 Anonymous. pretty good and touching IMO. i didn't think it was horrible like almost everyone else. :P 4 stars
12/08/08 brian Sweet, true, formulaic. Occasionally annoying but full of heart. 4 stars
11/06/08 Toni So maybe it wasn't a great movie, but calling a real person a "tard" is pretty fucked up. 1 stars
10/01/08 Shaun Wallner Boring!! 1 stars
7/29/08 the dork knight What? 1 stars
6/24/08 C. Thomas It's a touching story, and I've always been one for movies based on real-life events. 4 stars
2/09/07 romeo + juliet fun unpleasing 1 stars
11/09/06 Alice Parlier It stimulates evaluation of our moral reasoning, which is much needed. Great film. 5 stars
10/30/06 elle bell I watched the movie in school and i thought it was a great story and really touching! 5 stars
6/15/06 Heather Marie Worse than "Remember The Titans"! 1 stars
12/11/05 Julie I liked the movie . Movies dont always have to be about sex or drugs or action packed 4 stars
2/24/05 John An insult not only to retards, but to the non-retards who watch it. 1 stars
12/28/04 Uncle Salty Make it through without snapping your own neck, I'll give you a cookie. 1 stars
11/26/04 Chaos Fuckin retarded 1 stars
11/22/04 Daniel Pollock I watched and loved Radio. anyone else that thiks otherwise needs to check themselves 5 stars
11/10/04 Misti I found it to be a heartwarming movie. 4 stars
11/04/04 Naka GOD! NO! An insult to the mentally handicapped. 1 stars
8/05/04 DJ this movie was good, and for those who think other wise STUFF IT ASSHOLES, kthx 5 stars
7/25/04 Katie I love this move! I cried three times during it! 4 stars
6/14/04 T. Maj When in doubt, exploit the handicapped 1 stars
3/24/04 Margie feel good movie that didn't make me feel anything but bored :-( good story, bad execution. 3 stars
3/15/04 ozzie best movie i,ve seen in years 5 stars
3/12/04 zaw Very good Flick.. What the hell is Challenged mean! anyways. 5 stars
2/14/04 k86warrior both the film and the acting lacked soul and depth. it was lazily made and predictable. 2 stars
2/12/04 jj a good inspirational movie with pathos. 3 stars
2/08/04 Kitina Blues it's a sad thing to see so many peeple make a mokery out of this great film. U ALL SUK ASS! 5 stars
2/01/04 LIAM JACKSON sensitive coach and his div-brained friend warm up small town america. 3 stars
1/28/04 Tulsa slut CGJr actually good herein&I like it even though I generally can't stand Ed Harris. 4 stars
1/20/04 Betty White Sappy, hopelessly contrived drama; Gooding & Harris give boring performances. 1 stars
11/16/03 Greg perhaps this movie wasn't made for long-winded pompus writers like you. Ever think of that? 4 stars
11/02/03 Spiderfan729 Anyone who don't love Radio, get it through your head! RADIO ROCKS!!! 5 stars
10/28/03 Killer Miller this movie sucked boring stupid overseminental what a waste of time 2 stars
10/26/03 Rosamund if you like to be inspired and entertained........then see kill bill instead 1 stars
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  24-Oct-2003 (PG)
  DVD: 27-Jan-2004



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