February 27, 2005
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris, Alfre Woodard, S. Epatha Merkerson, Brent Sexton, Chris Mulkey, Sarah Drew, Riley Smith, Patrick Breen, Debra Winger, Bill Roberson, Kenneth H. Callender, Michael Harding, Charles Garren, Rebecca Koon, ,
Remember a time when Cuba Gooding Jr. wasn’t starring in crappy slapstick comedies like ‘Snow Dogs’ or ‘Boat Trip’ and was winning awards and being recognised for his acting abilities? Well if ‘Radio’ is anything to go by, those days are coming back. Cuba Gooding Jr. puts on his best performance since ‘Jerry Maguire’ in this touching tale of 1970’s American Football.
The movie is inspired by the true story of how James Robert Kennedy, lovingly called ‘Radio’ (because of his love for them), a mentally challenged individual who society never gave a chance became South Carolinas most-loved high school football coach. Raised by his mother and generally being regarded as being ‘a bit slower than most’ Radio has a naïve outlook on life and the dangers and prejudices of the local community. Coach Harold Jones sees an intense love for the American sport, his heart goes out to Radio and he invites him to help out on the sidelines and thus starts a father-son like relationship between the unlikely pair.
This isn’t just a movie about American Football, it goes much deeper than that and the second act of the movie the sport nearly takes a backseat to the emotional dramas that unfold. Along side Cuba’s excellent portrayal of Radio, is Ed Harris’ brilliant appearance as Coach Jones. He seems to effortlessly go from hard-ass football coach to family man, whose cheerleading daughter is tired of football absorbing her fathers’ life. The spectrum of emotion is dealt with when Coach decides Radio can achieve more than just being a glorified mascot and gets him into the classroom to try and help him use his good heart to deal with the harsh local society demanding perfect football results.
‘Radio’ is truly a heart-wrenching movie, which has elements of a comedy, a tear-jearker and a sound dramatic core. The script is well paced and keeps the momentum flowing brilliantly. However, the directing and lighting are very simplistic and run-of-the-mill except for a few flashy shots during the brutal football matches. This simple approach does reflect well on the simple nature of the character ‘Radio’. ‘Radio’ does bring some of the most realistic experiences of staged sports performances since ‘Varsity Blues’ and never falls into the trap of becoming a teenage coming-of-age type film. The characters are extremely well written, as the movie avoids filling itself with American high school stereotypes.
‘Radio’ is not about winning championships or playing football, it’s about giving someone a chance and the responsibilities of being a good friend. The only thing standing in the way is that the American Football season must end sometime.
There are five pointless deleted scenes, which would just serve to add even more of the overwhelming attachment we already have to Radio, but there’s a sixth that stands out above the others. We see a scene that is an interlacing of two scenes, one in which Coach takes Radio to Baptist Church and we see Radio signing and clapping. The other scene is one of Radio in the classroom learning, something that seems to be missing from the actual film.
Also there are three impressive featurettes of about twenty minutes each. One looking at the writing of ‘Radio’ and another looking at the creation of the football team. The best one is of the filming of ‘Radio’ – pretty standard by The Making Of… side of things but you do get to see interviews with the real Coach Harold Jones and also footage from when the real Coach Jones and the real Radio visit the set and the actors. The featurette also shows us the first meeting between Cuba Gooding Jr and Radio.