O Cuba, Where Art Thou?

All entertainers are allowed to make missteps from time to time. We forgave KISS for “Music From The Elder,” just as we forgave Mel Gibson for “Lethal Weapon 4” and we will someday forgive Robert Wuhl for “Arli$$.” Whether it’s because the money was too good to pass up, some burning desire to express their artistic needs or the obligatory joke that someone must have a picture of them in an uncompromising situation, people made bad judgment calls. Even Jackie Gleason created a series so embarrassingly awful, that he personally cancelled the show the next morning and spent what would have been the second episode apologizing for the previous week’s fiasco. So while you site through the umpteenth commercial for “Boat Trip” asking yourself what the hell Cuba Gooding, Jr. has been thinking, remind yourself that better offerings will be arriving later this year which should remind everyone why he deserved that Oscar in the first place.

In early August, Cuba will star alongside Mike Epps, Steve Harvey, Beyonce Knowles and Melba Moore in “The Fighting Temptations,” as a New York advertising executive who travels to a small Southern town to collect an inheritance, but finds he must create a gospel choir and lead it to success before he can collect. Directed by Jonathan Lynn, the English filmmaker whose credits include “My Cousin Vinny” and “The Whole Nine Yards,” we have heard through the proverbial grapevine that “Temptations” has already had four sneak previews in the recent past, and the early numbers have been, as they say, through the roof. One would think an early review for such an entertaining movie would have shown up somewhere on the Internet by now. Not that I am worried. Being an MTV Films production and featuring one of the hottest stars currently in the music industry, you can beat we’ll be hearing a lot more about this one later this summer.

Then, in October, Cuba will star in the fact based drama Radio as James Robert ‘Radio’ Kennedy, a mentally retarded man in the South who develops an unlikely friendship with local high school football coach Harold Jones (Ed Harris), which changes the lives of the Jones family and the entire community. All sarcasm aside, longtime Oscar watchers know one of the quickest ways to earn a nomination and zoom right back to the top of the casting lists is to portray someone with a handicap. Dustin Hoffman, coming off “Ishtar,” used his considerable talents as an actor and observer to portray the autistic Raymond Babbitt in “Rain Man” more accurately as any actor before, resulting in his second biggest hit of all time and his second trip to the podium. Daniel Day-Lewis, at that time best known for his role in the critically adored but box office anemic “Unbearable Lightness Of Being,” rode his brilliant interpretation of Cerebral Palsy-inflicted Irish writer and painter Christie Brown (along with some mad Miramax money freshly minted off Steven Soderbergh’s spectacular debut) to glory and fame. And while Robin Williams showed some true acting abilities in “Awakenings,” it was Robert DeNiro as the encephalitis-suffering Leonard Lowe who received the lion’s share of the attention and the nomination.

This one-two punch should go a long way in helping filmgoers forget “Boat Trip.” And “Snow Dogs.” And “Rat Race.” And “Pearl Harbor.” And “Chill Factor.” And… you get the picture.

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