More True Comedy than True Story
Sometimes life is stranger than fiction which helps to explain that at one time Jamaica really did have a Bobsled team and the story was turned into the entertaining and inspirational hit from 1993 "Cool Runnings". But although inspired by a true story and managing to deliver the sense of inspiration it desires to achieve, very little of the movie relates to the actual true story with liberties taken when it comes to events and characters in the search of making an entertaining movie. Whilst in some ways it's a little disappointing that what we watch in "Cool Runnings" is detached from the truth, what the producers achieve is a movie which is fun, pleasant, family friendly yet still delivering the inspirational element of the story.
When talented sprinter Derice Bannock (Leon - Cliffhanger) fails to qualify for the Jamaican athletics team he looks for another way to reach his dream and win an Olympic medal. His search leads him to Irving Blitzer (John Candy - JFK) a one time Bobsled champion who moved to Jamaica many years earlier with the notion that Jamaican sprinters, including Derice's father, would be perfect as Bobsledders. After convincing Irving to coach him and a motley bunch of recruits including Sanka (Doug E. Doug), Junior (Rawle D. Lewis) and Yul Brenner (Malik Yoba) the unlikely bunch of bobsledders head off to the Winter Olympics in Calgary in search of their dreams.
Whilst the underlying story to "Cool Runnings" is very much a formulaic underdog sports movie and as such goes through all the typical set ups of training and disappointments it is a movie which for the most which plays it for laughs. In a way it makes sense with the unlikeliness of a bunch of sun loving Jamaicans thrown into the icy world of the Calgary Olympics is prime for much humour in a fish out of water manner. It's actually when the movie focuses on the comedy that it is at the most entertaining, such as their first time going down the bobsled run or when they are in training pushing a VW Beetle down a hill. But it is also the combination of the Jamaican accent with the often amusing dialogue which makes it a movie which keeps drawing you back to what is going on.
But whilst the humour makes "Cool Runnings" a joy to watch for all the family it cleverly changes track as the movie progresses to take on the more emotional side of the inspiration story. Whilst for anyone who has seen plenty of these style underdog stories the emotional side of the movie feels a little manufactured, it still works remarkably well as it racks up the intensity of this team of unlikely heroes. It actually delivers quite a nice message in delivering the inspirational ending and is one of the reasons why "Cool Runnings" is such a memorable movie.
Performance wise well whilst Leon turns on his charms and plays on his good looks as Derice Bannock and Doug E. Doug goes for the funny as his best friend Sanka Coffie "Cool Runnings" is very much John Candy's movie as Irving 'Irv' Blitzer. It's a typical fun performance from Candy as the one time Bobsled champ and being slightly on the large side is as unlikely as a coach as the Jamaicans are as Bobsledders. But it's not a great John Candy performance just one which is good fun.
what this all boils down to is that "Cool Runnings" is a pleasant, fun and family friendly movie which takes the most unlikeliest of true stories and plays it for fun. Technically it's very formulaic as you would expect from a movie which has an inspirational theme but because it plays it for laughs it is a pleasant change from your average underdog story.