I’ve taken a great deal of grief from my coworkers this last week. When we first started discussing our best football movies, I made the crucial mistake of writing this email in a group message asking people their top 5 football movies:
All The Right Moves (this is peak Tom Cruise)
Any Given Sunday
Remember the Titans
Worst Football Movie of all time (maybe worst movie of all time): Radio
I was immediately met with disdain and scorn from my coworkers. So I need to make my case, that Radio (2003) is an awful, awful movie.
Radio exists right in the heart of Cuba Gooding Jr.’s time in actor jail. Fresh off the disasters Snow Dogs and Boat Trip, Cuba was going to get back in the Oscar spotlight, or at least get some good will. And what better way to do it than to play someone with a mental handicap.
I must admit, whoever designed the teeth that he wears in the film may be the only person associated with the production who deserved Oscar consideration. Those are some great looking chompers.
If you haven’t seen the film, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Radio, as he is affectionately nicknamed (cleverly so because he loves radios. I mean, come on.). Radio comes in contact with Ed Harris’ Coach Jones, who sees Radio wandering around his football team’s practice and takes the mentally challenged young man under his wing and the wing of the football team.
Obviously, some members of the town and evil, evil parents think Radio being around the team is a distraction, but at the end of the day, this small town rallies around Radio. Of course, Radio teaches the town and the team more than they teach Radio (this point is even directly stated by Coach Jones in case you missed it).
Maybe I’m a cold person and have no heart. Or maybe Radio is simplistic and saccharine, falsely tugging at heartstrings using absurd shortcuts. It doesn’t ever earn any of its emotional rewards. It’s easy for the coach to take a liking to Radio so quickly. It’s easy for Coach Jones’ main assistant, Coach Honeycutt to be on his side from the beginning. And it’s easy to never, ever make race an issue in the film.
Which might be the greatest sin of Radio. This is a film about a black, mentally challenged young man in 1976 South Carolina. Throughout the film, his blackness is never the reason for his tokenism, or for the townspeople’s fears, or for parents’ disgust.
Maybe the film doesn’t realize it’s taking place in 1976 because there are a myriad of time period mistakes found in the film. Or maybe the film wasn’t necessarily written for a black actor, and no one considered the consequences when they hired Cuba Gooding Jr. Or maybe everyone was just too lazy to bother changing this worthless script.
And who could blame them? The film did gross more than 50 million dollars with a budget of about 30 million dollars. Which is fine. Some people like easy-to-digest tearjerkers that make them feel good about themselves.
I can’t keep taking about how bad Radio is, so I think I’ll leave it to others to finish helping me make my case.
“It’s hard to say what’s more offensive about the out-of-tune Radio-Cuba Gooding Jr. trying to ingratiate himself by mugging up a storm as a mentally challenged man, or the mawkish narrative surrounding him like so much syrup.” Lou Lumenick – New York Post
“Anyone who already knows better than to taunt the disabled, or former Oscar winners, should probably give it a pass.” Keith Phipps – The A.V. Club
“Mr. Gooding is out there in almost every scene, and the destruction of his once-promising career proceeds apace.” Michael O’Sullivan – Washington Post
“Though probably well-intentioned, Radio comes off as manipulative of its audience and exploitative of the mentally challenged.” Claudio Puig – USA Today