review for Radio Days on AllMovie

Radio Days (1987)
by Keith Phipps review

Nostalgia often allows otherwise disciplined filmmakers to lower their guards and indulge in misty-eyed wistfulness for its own sake, a trap Woody Allen neatly avoids by making Radio Days a film every bit as sharp as it is sentimental. A touching coming-of-age story almost by accident, the film revives radio-dominated WWII era New York through a series of comic vignettes portraying the adventures of an Allen-esque boy (an already impressive Seth Green) and the behind-the-scenes lives of the radio performers he idolizes, mining each for humor and pathos. Almost by definition, some portions of episodic films work better than others, but Allen integrates them all excellently into a consistent whole, a feat made all the more remarkable by the film's brief running time. There's a lot of narrative packed into Radio Days' 85 minutes, and Allen's steady tone makes sure that none of it feels out of place. Aware of how much memory is tied into pop culture, Allen uses minute period details and a packed soundtrack to evoke the time, a choice that lends impact to its era-ending finale. Even those born well after the time the film portrays may find themselves nostalgic for its passing, and newly aware that their time too will pass. Though it owes a debt to Fellini's Amarcord, this is one of Allen's most distinctively personal films.