Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
Starring: Ed Harris, Cuba Gooding Jr., Debra Winger | Directed by: Mike Tollin | Produced by: Brian Robbins and Herbert W. Gains | Written by: Mike Rich | Distributor: Revolution Studios, Columbia Pictures
Winning or losing is everything on the playing field of the film “Radio”, but unlike the well-known Hoosiers, the goal isn’t about winning games but winning people. Retelling this “inspired by” true story takes some uphill challenges, but eventually succeeds in showing the prize of simple human kindness.
It’s 1976 in Anderson, South Carolina when Harold Jones (Ed Harris), coach of the high school football team, reaches out to James Robert Kennedy (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a mentally handicapped man, and bonds him anew to their small town community. To the bewilderment of the townspeople—and even the audience—Jones begins to include James in regular activities, first with school sports and then in the classroom. Finally discovering the motives behind Jones’ persistence in helping James is what enriches this simple story.
Family is at the heart of this movie, from Coach Jones’s family to the community at large. The only swearing in the film is at a football game and is presented humorously as James mistakenly keeps repeating a cuss word the coach blurts out in a moment of anger. In similar fashion, James is taken advantage of and led to chew tobacco at one point, and at another point tricked into walking into the girls’ shower room. There is no nudity, however.
More than the character of James (who comes to be known as “Radio”) this film is about Coach Jones and the decisions he makes. It is a good example of showing a person who has truly repented of his ways. In James 4:17, it says that “to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (NAS) Despite much opposition, Coach Jones has chosen to do what he knows is right and has forfeited his old ways.
This movie is a good choice for family audiences. At times it feels like the film tries to do too much and comes across a little contrived, but the values are excellent. And as a friend from South Carolina who attended the screening expressed, this film is an accurate portrayal of the simple goodness of southern people.