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Michael Tollin
Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris, S. Epatha Merkerson, Brent Sexton, Chris Mulkey, Sarah Drew, Riley Smith, Patrick Breen, Debra Winger
Writing Credits:
Mike Rich, Gary Smith (uncredited: magazine article)

His Courage Made Them Champions.

For anyone who ever had a dream and everyone with the courage to stand up for what they believe, comes the real life story of Robert 'Radio' Kennedy. Experience Radio's journey from a man no one understood to the coach no one could live without. Together with Head Coach Harold Jones, Radio inspired a football team to become champions and a town to open their hearts. Heroic performances from Academy Award Winner Cuba Gooding Jr. (1997, Best Supporting Actor, Jerry Maguire) and Ed Harris (Pollock) will have you laughing, crying and cheering for the man who proved the world's greatest victories happen in real life.

Box Office:
$35 million.
Opening Weekend
$13.303 million on 3074 screens.
Domestic Gross
$52.173 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 1/27/2004

• Audio Commentary with Director Mike Tollin
• “Tuning In: The Making of Radio Featurette
• “Writing Radio” Featurette
• “The 12-Hour Football Games of Radio” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Filmographies
• Trailers

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Radio (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 26, 2004)

If I recall correctly, the first time I heard of a movie that I defined as being little more than “Oscar bait” came with 1989’s Steel Magnolias. This seemed like a film that existed essentially just to win some awards; it played up to all the usual Oscar trends and appeared to be a crass attempt to snare the gold. To be sure, the Oscar-bait film existed long before Magnolias, but I guess 1989 was the year I got cynical enough to recognize the trend.

About a decade and a half later, the Oscar-bait concept remains as popular as ever, and we can place 2003’s Radio firmly in the category. Given its rancid reviews, I doubt it’ll snag any awards, but it sure tries hard to impress us. Too bad it fails in all those attempts.

Set in Anderson, South Carolina, circa 1976, Radio introduces us to high school teacher and football coach Harold Jones (Ed Harris). He lives with his wife Linda (Debra Winger) and 16-year-old daughter Mary Helen (Sarah Drew), though he seems too preoccupied with the team to do much with them.

Harold appears especially distant from Mary Helen, a fact that intensifies when he meets James Robert “Radio” Kennedy (Cuba Gooding Jr.). A local guy with severe mental deficiencies, Radio wanders around town with his shopping cart of stuff and the ever-present radio that gives him his nickname. One day some of the football players tie up Radio and torment him, and Harold comes to his rescue.

Slowly Harold starts to reach out to Radio and he incorporates him into the squad as an assistant. Occasional bouts of resistance greet these attempts, especially from sports booster and star athlete parent Frank Clay (Chris Mulkey), but most of them evaporate as the locals embrace the lovable Radio. He becomes something of a mascot, and when the season ends, Harold keeps Radio on board as a school assistant.

Essentially Radio focuses on what happens from there. We see how Radio adapts to the situation and the various issues he and Harold encounter. These ebb and flow throughout the movie and make it a terribly jerky and inconsistent flick. One minute we get the vibe that most of the locals frown on the relationship between Radio and Harold, but within minutes we see them all literally and figuratively embrace things.

Plot threads come and go seemingly at random. At one point a representative of the school board gives Harold a hard time, but he vanishes until the movie finds it convenient to allow him to return. Mary Helen plays a strong role for a while and then disappears until the film decides it needs her. We see the boys grow to like Radio until the movie decides we need some conflict and gets them to harass him again.

This goes on ad nauseum, as the flick brings these threads in and out for little logical reason. It just does so to create an artificial sense of tension and conflict, and much of it seems irrational. Yeah, the film needs some form of drama or it’d become terribly boring, but the way these elements get executed feels fake.

Unfortunately, the weak pacing doesn’t help. Radio doesn’t enjoy much of a plot, so the action meanders as it attempts to locate a real storyline. The tale wanders around in search of something interesting to depict and usually fails.

Nothing says “Gimme an Oscar!” like an actor who plays a character with severe mental and/or emotional impairments. From Geoffrey Rush to Dustin Hoffman to Russell Crowe, actors love to latch onto this sort of part, so I can understand why Gooding thought Radio might revive his flagging career. Unfortunately, the film will go down as just another mistake on his part. Gooding goes out of his way to accentuate Radio’s cutesy element and mostly lets his prosthetic teeth do the acting for him.

Ultimately, Radio fails as a film because it presents little sense of reality and it doesn’t offer a clear and compelling narrative. The basic elements of a decent movie exist here but never appear on the screen. Instead, we find a saccharine sweet interpretation of a story that rarely seems like anything more than bland treacle.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Radio appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie presented a good transfer but not one that stood out as particularly special.

Sharpness mostly seemed positive. Occasional wider shots came across as a little soft and ill defined, but those caused few distractions. Instead, the majority of the flick appeared fairly distinctive and detailed. I saw no issues related to jagged edges or moiré effects, but some light edge enhancement showed up at times. Print flaws seemed essentially non-existent. I noticed a little more grain than normal plus a speck or two, but most of the flick was clean and without defects.

Radio went with a naturalistic palette that seemed fairly well rendered. Colors didn’t jump off the screen, but they seemed acceptably vivid and distinctive. Black levels seemed reasonably deep and dense, but shadows occasionally came across as a little thick. Some low-light situations appeared slightly too opaque, but these usually were fairly clear. Overall, Radio was a good transfer that seemed generally satisfying.

Given the film’s genre, I didn’t expect much from the Dolby Digital 5.1 transfer of Radio, but the audio proved to be surprisingly satisfying. Although the soundfield won’t win any prizes for ambition, it appeared more active and involving than usual for this sort of movie. The forward spectrum boasted a nice and varied sense of environment that created a good feeling of location. Elements were well placed in the front and meshed together smoothly. We even got a little directional dialogue in this accurately detailed soundfield.

The surrounds added a fine tone of atmosphere as well. Not a lot of impressive sequences occurred, though some – like a train that went from front to rear – seemed vividly executed. Mostly the track stayed with general atmospherics, especially at football and basketball games, and these recreated the environment well.

Audio quality was also quite good. Speech consistently came across as natural and concise, with no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Music displayed a nice sense of dynamics and range, with crisp highs and warm lows. Bass response proved especially strong for the effects. Those replicated the different elements with detail and distinction, and the low-end parts were quite deep and rich. Though exaggerated, football hits packed a nice punch, and some other bits from the various sports games were similarly solid. Ultimately, Radio presented a find auditory experience.

For this DVD release of Radio, we get a mix of supplements. These open with an audio commentary from director Mike Tollin, who offers a running, screen-specific piece. A chatty participant, Tollin covers many facets of the production. He discusses the flick’s origins, how he became involved with it, locations, adapting the modern world for the story’s period, liberties taken with historical material, casting and working with the actors, various logistical concerns, and many other areas. Tollin seems engaging and involved during this very interesting and informative discussion.

Next we find three separate featurettes. These start with Tuning In: The Making of Radio, a 21-minute and 47-second documentary. It mixes the usual set of movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from the real-life Harold Jones, director Tollin, screenwriter Mike Rich, casting director producer Herbert Gains, casting director Margery Simkin, sports coordinator Mark Ellis, and actors Alfre Woodard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris, Riley Smith, Sara Drew, and Debra Winger. They go over topics like adapting the real tale to film, the actors’ approaches to their roles, and casting. Some interesting tidbits pop up at times, but most of the program seems like generic fluff. We find lots of movie snippets and not a ton of concrete and useful information. It’s not a bad piece, but it seems fairly bland.

After this we get Writing Radio. In this 12-minute and 23-second piece, we get notes from Coach Jones, Tollin, Rich, Ellis, Harris, director of photography Don Burgess, and Sports Illustrated writer Gary Smith. We learn of how the Radio story first appeared in SI and how it became adapted for the screen. We hear of Rich’s approach to dialogue and issues connected to rewrites as well as the integration of sports into the tale and character notes. The program provides some minor insights but seems somewhat generic and without great substance.

Called The 12-Hour Football Games of Radio, the final featurette runs nine minutes and 47 seconds. It includes comments from Ellis, Tollin, Smith, Gains, Harris, and Burgess. They talk about the casting and training of the extras who play football players and also go through the issues connected to shooting these scenes. It’s a pretty solid examination of the topic and all the challenges.

The disc presents six deleted scenes. These run between 22 seconds and 110 seconds for a total of six minutes, 27 seconds of footage. Mostly these present cutesy bits with Radio and don’t add up to much. We can watch these with or without commentary from director Tollin. He gives us some good notes about the shooting of the scenes and also lets us know why they got the boot.

Radio opens with a few trailers. We get clips for 50 First Dates, Mona Lisa Smile, Big Fish and Something’s Gotta Give. These also appear in the disc’s “trailers” area along with promos for Radio, Spellbound and Rudy. The DVD ends with Filmographies for director Tollin, writer Rich, and actors Gooding, Harris, Winger and Smith.

Based on the history behind the film, Radio presents an interesting tale. However, the filmmakers strip the story of all life and make it nothing more than a warm and fuzzy piece of feel-good claptrap. The DVD presents generally solid picture plus surprisingly positive audio and a nice roster of extras highlighted by a very good audio commentary. While the DVD of Radio offers the flick in a high-quality manner, the material itself seems bland and poorly constructed, so I can’t recommend this weak film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1081 Stars Number of Votes: 37
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