"'Some folks don't understand'," Coach Jones (Harris) tells Radio (Gooding Jr), the mentally challenged mascot of the high-school football team, as he tries to explain why people object to his presence on the touchline. '"But they'll catch on'." Unfortunately, we never do. What is it exactly that Jones sees in his buck-toothed charge? Okay, so Radio's cute, but from the outset he causes nothing but problems, professionally and personally. Significantly, when Jones' boss accuses him of using the twitching Radio as a glorified cheerleader, the outrage you're supposed to feel is overwhelmed by the realisation that she's actually making a very good point.
Is this a race thing? Is Jones' lesson the one about loving your fellow man, regardless of colour or creed? Apparently not. Because according to Radio, South Carolina has never had a problem with racism, certainly not during the '70s - after all, this wasn't a period when many colleges were fighting to keep their classrooms segregated, was it? Sarcasm aside, this refusal to acknowledge the Klansman in the corner makes Radio a feature-length irony: a sports movie severely lacking in balls. '"You remember when you asked me where all this was going?'," Jones asks his boss rhetorically. 'I still don't know'." Groaning, you reach for the dial.
The only good news is that Cuba Gooding Jr has finally emerged from his primordial post-Oscar swamp (Boat Trip, Snow Dogs, Rat Race) with his facilities seemingly intact. His transformation from mumbling nobody to loudmouthed totem is effective and understated; his is the only subtle touch in a scrum of shoves and forcible prods.
Even so, Radio crackles unpleasantly. It says plenty about Michael Tollin's movie that the one time you find yourself tuned in is during the postscript, in which the real Radio is shown basking in the adoration of his hometown football crowd. Thanks to James Horner's intrusive score you can still feel your buttons clumsily being pushed, yet you're moved all the same. Alas, by this point we're deep into overtime, and the outcome has long since been decided.
Harris and Gooding Jr do their utmost to change the frequency, but a script littered with stock characters undermines their efforts at every turn.