Radio Review

Image for Radio

High school football coach Jones (Harris) befriends mentally challenged loner James (Gooding Jr.), whom he nicknames Radio because of his vintage radio collection. The pair bond, and Radio soon becomes the football team's mascot and most enthusiastic supporter.


Warm and fuzzy feelings ooze like treacle from every frame of this wholesome drama that's inspired by a real-life story (the real Radio and Coach Jones pop up in footage shown before the end credits) of the friendship between two very different men in a small South Carolina town.

It's got all the elements of a twee made-for-television movie - a tissues-at-the-ready, uplifting tale of a young man searching for acceptance and the teacher who inspires him, with lots of swirling music to get that lump in your throat quivering - but, rather than lurking in the afternoon telly schedules, it has a cinema release thanks to the high calibre cast of one Oscar winner (Gooding Jr.) and three Academy Award nominees (Harris, Winger and Alfre Woodard, who plays the school principal).

They're all pretty good, too. Gooding Jr. gives a low-key, subtle portrayal of mental disability - quite what handicap Radio suffers from is never specified - that thankfully never deteriorates into the nervous ticks and quirks many actors fall back on (yes, we mean you, Sean Penn, in I Am Sam).

Perhaps a few more roles like this will erase cinemagoers' memories of clunkers like Snow Dogs and serve to remind us that Gooding Jr. is a pretty good actor who has previously shone in movies like Jerry Maguire and Boyz N The Hood.

It's nice to see Debra Winger back on screen, too, in her first major screen performance for nine years. It's only in a brief appearance as Harris' wife, but she makes the most of a role that mainly consists of telling her husband he spends more time with his football team and Radio than he does with his own family (even that conversation never develops into an argument, because this film is just too darned nice). And Harris, as you'd probably expect, does the best he can with such a one-note do-gooder role, delivering another take on the confident, masculine, almost heroic persona he has displayed in numerous movies before.

Ultimately, this well-made, well-played, well-meaning (are you feeling queasy yet?) and simple tale of one man's rise from shopping trolley-pushing loner to football team mascot - imagine the first act of The Waterboy, without the laughs, as directed by Frank Capra - is a sweet, slushy mush of a family film.

You have been warned.

Put it like this: your 80 year-old granny would love Radio. It's inoffensive, insipid and innocuous, and cynics should give it a very, very wide berth.