A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Radio has a couple of bad words and a sad death (off-screen). In a cruel prank, Radio is sent into the girls' locker room (nothing shown). Characters are cruel but learn their lesson. Even though it is set in the South in the decade after the Civil Rights Act was passed, the movie avoids stereotyping the white residents as racist.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
RADIO begins in 1976 South Carolina, where small town high school football is very serious business. Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays Radio, described by his mother as "just like everyone else, but a little slower." He pushes a shopping cart around and barely speaks. When members of the local high school football team mistreat him, the coach (Ed Harris) invites Radio to watch a practice. Soon, Radio is helping out, and with the coach's encouragement, he begins to interact with people and eventually becomes an "honorary" student. But complications arise when others in the community view Radio's involvement as a liability and a distraction. All is happily resolved in time for the inevitable "We learned more from him than he ever learned from us" speech and the montage showing the real Radio still leading the team onto the field, 25 years later.
Is it any good?
This film may be as predictable as a Hallmark card, but it's as heartwarming, too. Radio is a nice, old-fashioned family movie about the importance of kindness. The characters learn that some things are more important than being smart. The audience learns that that lesson can apply to movies as well as people.
It's always a little too easy to have minority or disabled characters in movies serve as saint-like or magical creatures who teach others how to be more authentic, yet this film handles the challenge better than most. Harris and Gooding give their characters depth and decency to provide some grounding for the story and keep it from getting too sugary. But they really have to carry the entire movie. Debra Winger appears in the thankless understanding-wife role (though she does carry a copy of Betty Friedan's revolutionary Feminine Mystique through one scene).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about disabled people they know and how they are treated. Do you think Radio was a respectful, accurate someone with a disability?
Why was Radio was so important to Coach Jones? If we cannot correct a mistake we make at the time, how we can find a way to use what we have learned to prevent another mistake in the future
They could talk about how the coach decided what his priorities really were and about how Radio showed that he understood some things better than people who thought they were smarter than he was.
- In theaters: October 24, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: January 27, 2004
- Cast: Alfre Woodard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris
- Director: Michael Tollin
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild language and thematic elements
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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