Effectively Dangerous Minds without the Coolio song, Radical is an inspiring and moving drama about a teacher willing to do anything to engage and educate students at a bottom-tier school in a gang-ravaged Mexican border town.
Eugenio Derbez gives a fantastic and quirky performance as Sergio, who one day sucks “fuck it” (in español of course), throws away the textbox, and starts meeting his students where they’re at. His approach proves highly effective, to the degree that the true story was featured in an article of Wired that I haven’t read (it should be noted that this movie is inspired by a true story, which means in reality there was probably a teacher, a school, and some kids involved).
Derbez’s Sergio is a fun, funny, and whimsical character, the kind of person who is impossible not to like unless you hate fun, funny, and whimsical people. Which I get. But it’s Derbez’s performance that elevates the material by Christopher Zalla beyond your standard “teacher saves disadvantaged students” story, which, by the way, is a real sub-genre because I say so.
The script, story, and movie as a whole are solid, but there’s nothing groundbreaking when you look at it piece by piece. But with Derbez flirting with perfection and the supporting cast nailing it at every turn (I especially liked Jennifer Trejo as young Paloma, Danilo Guardiola as Nico, and Gilberto Barraza in a small but powerful turn), Radical turns in its homework as one of the better movies of 2023.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.