2. Radio (2003)
Director: Michael Tollin
Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris, Debra Winger, Alfre Woodard, S. Epatha Merkerson, Brent Sexton
It’s a toss-up as to who gets the bigger shaft in Radio, black people or handicapped people. To pick one, let’s go with the latter, though director Michael Tollin’s painfully sentimental film fits the “white savior” bill to the tee. It’s just that, due to Cuba Gooding Jr.’s laughably off-key turn as a mentally disabled football lover, Radio goes out of its way to denigrate the less intellectually fortunate.
Going full retard (for Gooding’s sake, 2008’s Tropic Thunder arrived five years too late), the Academy Award winner—yes, the guy from Boat Trip once took home an Oscar—turns the character of Radio into an unfortunate mascot. But then it’s Ed Harris to the rescue, playing the high school football coach who allows Gooding’s Radio to help out with his team despite players’ and local residents’ reluctance to accept the disabled guy.
Tollin hammers the story’s emotions over viewers’ craniums with the force of Thor’s hammer, scoring his already hammy flick with exceptionally melodramatic music and using Gooding, who’s all kinds of bad here, as a cipher to earn “Aww, look at the adorably slow man” sympathy. We just feel bad for the helpless black handicapped men who’d bitch-slap Gooding if ever given the chance.