Directed by Michael Tollin, starring Cuba Gooding Jr, Ed Harris, Alfre Woodard, S Epatha Merkerson, Brent Sexton, Chris Mulkey, Sarah Drew, Riley Smith, Patrick Breen and Debra Winger.
Since his 1997 Oscar win, Cuba Gooding Jr hasn't had a great track record. There's the disappointing 'Men of Honour', flopbuster 'Pearl Harbour', the truly abysmal 'Boat Trip' and last year's Beyoncé vehicle, 'The Fighting Temptations' - not exactly a line-up to be proud of. With 'Radio' he seems prepared to take a step in the right direction, actually taking an opportunity to act, but this inspired-by-a-true-story film is smothered in sentiment and political correctness.
As James Robert Kennedy, nicknamed Radio (for his habit of collecting portable radios), Gooding plays a young man with special needs who spends his days pushing a rusty shopping trolley around his sleepy South Carolina town in the 1970s, sometimes watching the local football team as they train. After an episode involving some members of the team bullying Radio, coach Harold Jones (Harris) takes him under his wing.
Initially frightened and almost speechless, Radio blossoms under Jones' tutelage and he becomes the unofficial mascot for both the football and the basketball teams. But this is not achieved without opposition from local banker Frank Clay (Mulkey), who feels that Radio's excitable antics on the sideline are distracting the football team, and his bullying son, Johnny (Smith). There's also a subplot involving the amount of time and love lavished on Radio by Jones, while he practically ignores his wife (the ever-underused Winger) and teenage daughter (Drew).
To his credit, Gooding does not grandstand in a role which could have been horrendously overplayed, but instead manages to create a convincing character - a persecuted innocent with a collection of distracting tics. Harris is watchable as always, noble yet understated, but Winger's wallflower wife gets few lines, most of them platitudes. The script is dreadfully formulaic and uses Radio's disability - which is never fully explained - as a tool to teach the rest of the town about love, honesty and selflessness. It's a sentimental, condescending and vaguely disturbing way of dealing with disability that does nobody any favours. The use of footage of the real Radio at the end of the film only further serves to underline this uneasiness. And, although 'Radio' is set in the deep South in the mid-1970s, the film also completely sidesteps the race question.
A wonderful cast and some good acting cannot make up for a script full of tear-jerking melodrama. Not a cliché is left unturned and James Horner's score pours even more syrup over proceedings. Patronising and predictable.