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At least he doesn’t run back kicks. Whereas films such as Forrest Gump, The Waterboy, and Rudy have brought the mentally handicapped and physically underwhelming onto the field for inspiration, Radio’s title character is trapped on the sidelines. James Robert Kennedy (Cuba Gooding Jr., sporting a set of hillbilly teeth) is a nearly mute man who wanders around his small South Carolina town hunched behind a grocery cart outfitted with a small transistor radio. He is, of course, “the same as everybody else, just a little slower than most,” and before you can say “stupid is as stupid does,” T.L. Hanna High’s hardassed, yellow-fedora-wearing football coach, Harold Jones (Ed Harris), reaches out to him, asking James to hold a tackling dummy and outfitting him with a nickname. As the season progresses, the enthused Radio blossoms into the team’s ersatz mascot and a lovable chatterbox with a fondness for pie. As originally told by Sports Illustrated’s Gary Smith, Kennedy’s story was ready-made for Hollywood, a tale of small-town values and redemption through sport. But though the film’s inspiration-mongering all-star team—producer Brian Robbins and director Michael Tollin previously collaborated on such empty-headed sports fare as Summer Catch and Varsity Blues, and writer Mike Rich penned The Rookie—wisely doesn’t let Radio suit up, its restraint is less evident when it comes to doctoring the narrative. By playing up twice-baked story elements such as forced sojourns into the girls’ locker room and a hotheaded dad who believes Radio will somehow ruin his son’s chance at earning an athletic scholarship, the filmmakers transform a sweet, extraordinary story into so much treacle-laden predictability. In the end, Radio isn’t about its title character and the obstacles he overcomes; it’s about how everyone else can benefit. In one ostensibly uplifting moment, Coach Jones pronounces, “The truth is, we’re not the ones that have been teaching Radio—Radio’s the one that’s been teaching us.” And what’s the valuable lesson that the coach, his players, and the townspeople learn from Radio? That a good-hearted simpleton sure does inspire some pithy sayings. —Josh Levin