I cried twice while watching this movie. Once out of sentimentality and once because I was really questioning my life choices and how they led to the moment when I found myself voluntarily watching this movie rather than, you know, drinking champagne on a yacht in the south of France.
It's like the people who made this movie read this blog post and then built a time machine and zapped back to 2003 to make the movie longer and more awful just so I would experience the soul crushing time suck that is Radio.
Radio is the story of James Robert Kennedy, a developmentally challenged (disabled?) man who is befriended by a small town football coach. It's a friendship that changes their lives and the lives of those around them. It's pretty amazing and inspiring story based on a pretty awesome article. This is one of those rare occasions when I'll recommend that you read the source material rather than watch the movie.
Think of this like The Ring. This movie will kill you(r brain).
In the world of inspirational sports movies, an m.lady's work is never done. This isn't the worst inspirational sports movie I've ever seen (Hello, Coach Carter!), but it's pretty painful.
You know what's not painful? Ed Harris.
Ed Harris plays football coach, Harold Jones. Ed Harris is a good actor and he is good in this movie and this movie, being a very long exercise in endurance, is not his fault.
Nor is it Cuba Gooding Jr's fault. He plays Radio sincerely and, in my humble opinion, without hamming it up for the Academy. (Cuba Gooding Jr, I LOVE YOU!)
This movie has a "plot."
You see, Radio is marginalized by the whole town. He spends his days collecting objects in his grocery cart. He likes to stop by the high school football field and watch the players practice. One day a football goes over the fence and Radio decides to keep it.
These jerk-wad football players decide they need to teach Radio a lesson for stealing their football, so they lock him in a shed.
Which is totally not Even Steven for stealing a football, jerk-wads.
The coach finds out about their Medieval ways and he gets Radio out of the shed.
Coach Jones punishes the players involved with a really long Training Montage O' Consequence for being evil.
Radio attempts to thank the coach by giving him back the football, but the coach is all, "Why don't you just stop by practice tomorrow?"
It seems that after every game the menfolk gather at the local barbershop and talk about football and getting to the State Championships again.
Hey! m.lady! Why do they call him Radio?
Because he likes radios.
**********End Side Note**********
Radio starts coming to football practices. He becomes the equipment manager and honorary cheerleader.
As they get to know him, the people in the town grow to love Radio. What's not to love?! He's really nice! And he roots for the team! Even though they locked him in a shed!
Not all people understand that different is sometimes okay. As the team is preparing for an away game, the principal tells Coach Jones that Radio isn't allowed on the bus because he's not a student and you just don't know what could happen.
So the coach informs Radio, during a thunderstorm, that he can't go to the game.
And they leave him at the school, without a ride home, in the rain. Alone.
Radio ends up listening to the entire game on his....radio... and acting out all the plays in a thunderstorm.
This scene is so unbearable. I don't know if it's supposed to be moving, but it felt really gratuitous.
When it comes time for the next game, the team has Radio lead them onto the field. Which totally makes up for the abandonment and potential pneumonia caused by spending several hours in the rain because a ride home is just too much to give.
After the last game of the season, the coach gives Radio the game ball and the whole team is all, "Yay, Radio!" We looooove you!
The barbershop men are all kinds of suspicious about Radio. They think he's a distraction and the reason the team didn't make it to the State Championships.
(See that guy ominously sitting in the barber chair on the left? He's the villain.)
Let's take a moment to recognize that Radio's mom, as played by S. Epatha Merkerson, is really great.
But this guy, from the school board is not awesome.
He's investigating what the heck Radio is doing hanging around all these kids. The coach tries to explain that Radio used to walk around with a grocery cart. He didn't talk and spent his days alone. Now, Radio is playing a part in the community and contributing something to the team. The school board guy is all "Yadda Yadda Yadda, he's weird! Make him go away! Cooties!"
Debra Winger plays the coach's wife. I was all excited when I saw her name in the credits, but like Rachel Griffiths and Patricia Clarkson, she is wasted in the role of inspirational sports coach wife.
This is the coach's daughter. I'm pretty sure she was blond in the first act of the movie. That's how long this movie is. So, so long.
Also, I kind of hate the daughter character because the actress is really annoying on Grey's Anatomy. Not that I watch that show, but, you know, word on the street.
The coach has arranged for Radio to receive presents from kind townsfolk.
Radio decides to distribute the gifts throughout his neighborhood. So nice!
But this new police officer is all, "Where'd you get all that stuff?" And he arrests Radio because he doesn't understand that Radio isn't a criminal.
When he takes Radio to the police station, these two guys are all "We got a sandwich for you. Hey, who'd you arrest?"
When they find out that he arrested Radio, they're all, "Here Radio, have that jerk's sandwich. He's such a jerk."
Blah blah blah, minutes of my life I'll never get back again....
Radio becomes a hall monitor at the high school.
He helps out the basket ball team.
He makes the morning announcements.
He's really a part of the school and the town! Heartwarming.
The jerk-wads just won't let go of the fact that they are jerk-wads. They tell Radio that the girl's coach needs him in the girl's locker room.
When Radio goes in and all the girls scream these guys are all "ha ha ha sexual harassment!"
Radio won't rat out the jerk-wads for the locker room incident, but the coach ain't no dummy and he figures out what's what and he lays down the law.
Radio's mom dies.
Which causes the coach to really take Radio under his wing.
He teaches Radio to write, which is pretty much just a series of loops and scribbles, but it's actually a nice scene. I had tears in my eyes, but I did not cry.
After a short suspension, this jerk-wad returns to the basketball team:
Radio writes Captain Jerk-wad a note and gives him a radio. Kind of a "Sorry I got you in trouble present."
The jerk-wad realizes he was a jerk-wad and he makes up with Radio. Now they're cool.
The villain from the barbershop? He's jerk-wad the former's dad and he's still not cool with Radio hanging around.
He calls a meeting of parents.
At the barbershop.
The coach goes to the meeting and does the obligatory inspirational speech in which he tells us it's not winning or losing or how you played the game but that Radio taught the town more than the town taught Radio and never give up and family is great and then he quits coaching to spend more time with his family.
And every one is like, "Yeah."
And I threw up a little bit because How can you cast Debra Winger and actually TRY to waste her talent?!? Garfklkjlefiajdijfdtr?!
And then the townsfolk are all "Dammit! Our own close-minded prejudice caused us to lose a really awesome football coach! We stink!"
Blah blah blah, this movie is so long. I paused it and went to Walgreens and bough some Gatorade and Cover Girl make-up and when I came home I was like, STILL?!
Radio helps out with graduation:
And everyone hugs everyone. Especially when the principal tells Radio that he can keep coming to school and keep being in the 11th grade as long as he wants to be a student.
26 years later and Radio is still leading the football team onto the field.
And he's still really great friends with Coach Jones.
And he's still helping out with the football, basketball, and track teams.
I really wish someone who didn't hate eyes, brains, Debra Winger, or time could have written/directed this movie because it could have been really good.