An aimless young man who is scalping tickets, gambling and drinking, agrees to coach a Little League team from the Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago as a condition of getting a loan from a friend.
Up-and-coming sports reporter rescues a homeless man ("Champ") only to discover that he is, in fact, a boxing legend believed to have passed away. What begins as an opportunity to resurrect Champ's story and escape the shadow of his father's success becomes a personal journey as the ambitious reporter reexamines his own life and his relationship with his family.
Samuel L. Jackson,
Football coach Harold Jones befriends Radio, a mentally-challenged man who becomes a student at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, South Carolina. Their friendship extends over several decades, where Radio transforms from a shy, tormented man into an inspiration to his community. Written by
'Radio' tells the true life story of a high school football coach who befriends a severely mentally retarded young man (whom they nickname 'Radio' because he loves listening to the radio so much), lets him hang out with the team, and, thereby, changes not only the boy's life but the lives of just about everyone in the South Carolina town in which they live. When Radio's behavior on the sidelines begins to serve as a distraction during the games, some of the less sympathetic, die-hard football fans of the town make an effort to downplay his role or eliminate his presence altogether.
Set in 1976, 'Radio' is a thoroughly predictable, sentimental heart tugger that will have people either gagging on the syrup or crying in their popcorn. For all its heavy handed manipulation, however, 'Radio' turns out to be a pretty decent little film due, primarily, to the superb performances by Ed Harris and Cube Gooding Jr., and to the fact that the movie doesn't overplay its hand as often as it might. In fact, it wisely underplays much of the conflict, allowing the moments of quiet subtlety to predominate. As played by Harris, Coach Jones is a solid, decent, caring man who can't help but give his love to a fellow human being who needs it. Harris' soft-spoken strength makes us believe in the goodness of the man. The film does an effective job conveying the incredulous reactions of many of the otherwise well-meaning town folk, as even Radio's own mother asks Joe why he is doing what he's doing. The scenes between Jones and this woman, lovingly played by S. Epatha Merkerson, are some of the finest in the film. The movie also isn't afraid to confront the issue of whether the people of the town - and that includes Jones himself - aren't actually being patronizing towards Radio in their treatment of him, and whether he isn't more of a 'mascot' for the team than a bona fide member. Gooding Jr. slips effortlessly into the role of Radio, making him a compelling figure even though he has virtually no lines of dialogue in the movie. Alfre Woodard is excellent as the caring but nervous school principal who sees Radio's presence on campus as a potential threat to student safety, but who has enough faith in Jones to give Radio a chance to prove himself. It's nice to see Debra Winger in a movie again, although her role as Jones' ever-patient, ever-supportive wife, doesn't give her much room to strut her stuff as an actress.
There's no denying that 'Radio' is a humanity-of-man type film that could easily set the teeth on edge with its Goody Two Shoes philosophy of life. Be that as it may, 'Radio' turns out to be a warm, uplifting film that even Scrooge would probably like.
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