A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
I have good things to write about "Music Within," but I have some troubles with it, too. First, the good stuff: This is an entertaining, sometimes inspiring film about a man named Richard Pimental (Ron Livingston), who serves in Vietnam and is almost completely deafened when a shell lands near him in battle. Returning to America, he receives not exactly expert treatment for his disability and is cast out into the world to find himself all but unemployable. Among the friends he makes in the disabled community is Art Honeyman (Michael Sheen), who has cerebral palsy but is a powerhouse of intelligence and wit.
The two of them experience first-hand the discrimination, sometimes unconscious, that the world inflicts on those who look, sound or act differently. In one of the movie's most infuriating scenes, they are asked to leave a restaurant, "because you're disturbing the other customers." How are they disturbing them? By being there. By existing. By Honeyman being twisted and in a wheelchair and talking awkwardly.
Pimental's own experiences and what he sees happening to his friends inspire him to become a disability rights activist, and although the movie doesn't quite say so, he must have been the driving force behind the Americans With Disabilities Act (1990), because no one else is mentioned. Taken just on these terms, the movie works, it's effective, and I believe audiences will respond to it.
My own feelings are a little more complex. They began forming in early childhood. Growing up in Urbana, I was unknowingly at the center of a rehabilitation movement that formed after World War II. Thousands of returning vets were in wheelchairs. Unlike Pimental, who is told in the film that he doesn't qualify for veterans' college funds because he is deaf, many of them attended universities on the G.I. Bill.