Published on June 15th, 2008 | by simeon0
In this era of strife and economic struggles, it is at times difficult to remember the simple things in life and how one can often find fulfillment in places they never thought to look.
In 1976’s in a small football town in South Carolina, coach Harold Jones (Ed Harris), is busy preparing his team for the coming season and as is his usual process, ignoring his wife and daughter for film studies and play design sessions. The town bonds over the weekly games during the Fall, and coach Jones is a liked and respected man amongst the people.
Life for coach Jones takes a turn when he discovers players from his team tormenting a local boy who is slow and illiterate whose only crime is pushing a shopping cart around town and picking up a stray football that sailed over the fence during a practice session. Disgusted and alarmed by the action of this group of players, Jones punishes the players and invites the young man to come to practice to help out whenever he wants. Despite his communication issues, the young man named James (Cuba Gooding Jr.) starts to open to the coach and is able to communicate with far more ability then people had given him credit for. James is being raised by his loving and widowed mother who is at first weary of the coaches intentions as people from his part of town do not often go out of their way to help a person of color much less a disabled one.
It is discovered that aside from food, James has a real fondness for music and is soon given the nickname “Radio” due to his ever-present radio. Before long, Radio not only becomes a fixture on the team sidelines and practice sessions, but in the very classrooms and halls of the school despite the initial misgivings of the Principal (Alfre Woodard). Eventually misgivings seem to fade as the constant enthusiasm and desire to help endear Radio to many of those around him.
There are those in the town who are not found of this arrangement however and see Radio as a distraction to the team and behind a recent losing streak. As the season unfolds some parents are concerned that the presence of Radio will undermine the chances for scholarships for certain athletes on the team setting up events for the remainder of the film.
While “Radio” is at times overly sentimental, the fine work by Harris and the Oscar worthy performance of Gooding JR. make the film well worth seeing.
My biggest issue with the film would that it did not address enough of what Radio’s life was like after the events of the film. There is footage in the closing credits of the real radio and Coach Jones, and we are told that Radio is still a large part of the school and it’s athletic programs. What we do not know is how Radio supported himself over the years and what Coach Jones did after the concluding events of the film.
Those factors aside, “Radio” is a moving film and a triumph for Cuba Gooding JR. who shows that his first Oscar was not a fluke and that he is very gifted and capable actor.
3.5 stars out of 5