Cool Runnings

“Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, it’s bobsled time! Cool Runnings!”

Great comedy based on the true life events of how four Jamaican athletes made it to the Olympics as a bobsled team for the first time  in the nation’s history with the help of an inspiring, ex-bobsled coach Irving “Irv” Blitzer of the United States, played by John Candy.

The journey begins as Derice Bannock, a world class 100 m runner played by Leon Robinson, misses qualification for the 1988 Olympics. Desperate to make the Olympics…any Olympics, Derice eventually bonds with Sanka Coffie, well played by Doug E. Doug, Junior Bevil, played by Rawle D. Lewis and “Yul Brenner” played by Malik Yoba (Daddy Don’t Go, TV’s New York Undercover).

Leon and Doug E. Doug have noticeable, star making turns as the head members of the team while Lewis and Yoba make impressive debuts.  The four men teach themselves (and others) the importance of sportsmanship, determination, and taking your own path in your life, especially during the sequences involving their fundraising stage. Peter Outerbridge (TV’s Designated Survivor) plays Josef Grool, captain of a rival bobsled team. Raymond J. Barry also stars as Kurt Hemphill, an Olympic official that has a past history with Irv.

Filmed in Calgary and Jamaica, Cool Runnings glides on situational comedy from predictable “culture shock” situations throughout this group’s training and competition. Sight gags are the most common laugh as Candy always seems to have a decent quip for every situation/result.

The tough qualification process, rivalry and Olympic Committee politics create predictable conflicts/challenges as they draw on family and each other to achieve their goals. The one hour and 38 minute plot is surprisingly detailed and inspiring though occasionally gets caught up in non-essential logistics. Filmmakers incorporate actual footage from the 1988 Winter Olympics into the plot.

The upbeat songs, most notably Jimmy Cliff’s cover of “I Can See Clearly Now” plus songs by Bob Marley, Wailing Souls, Tony Rebel, Lock, Stock and Barrel  and Tiger. Composer Hans Zimmer boosts the inspiring, dramatic moments with his great musical score.

Directed by Jon Turtletaub (Phenomonon, National Treasure, While You Were Sleeping), Cool Runnings comes recommended (*** out of four stars) and rated PG for mild language and brief violence. “Cool Runnings” means “Peace be the journey.”

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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