Title: Cool Runnings
Release Date: 1993 October 1
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures
This comedy is loosely based on the Jamaican bobsled team’s unlikely performance at the 1988 Winter Olympics. It is disappointing that with a true life story worthy of movie, that all the characters and most of the details depicted are entirely fictional. That being said, the fictional story has a good cast of archetypal characters: Derice (Leon Robinson) – the talented sprinter with Olympic dreams and endless optimism, his friend Sanka (Doug E. Doug) – the laid back champion push cart racers, Junior (Rawle D. Lewis) – the wealthy kid who is frightened to challenge his father’s plans for his future, and Yul (Malik Yoba) – the tough guy with the heart of gold. Add to this John Candy as a successful American bobsledder who surrendered his medals after a cheating scandal in 1972 and is living in Jamaica working as bookie until Derice recruits him to be their coach. This was the last movie released before Candy’s death and it’s interesting that he’s mostly the straight man and that his performance adds some gravitas to the movie.
Most of the humor comes from the mix of this group of characters working together, with the rest of course coming from the unlikelihood of people from a tropical nation attempting to compete in a winter sport that they’ve never done before. Nothing can top the dialogue when they step outside for the first time in the subzero temperatures of Calgary:
Derice Bannock: Sanka mon, whatcha smoking?
Sanka Coffie: I’m not smoking, I’m breathing!
It is a bummer that in the effort to add more conflict to the already fictionalized story, the Jamaican bobsledders are treated with derision by the other athletes and have to jump through hoops to qualify due to Candy’s character’s history of cheating. Not only is this contrary to real life when other athletes were supportive of the Jamaican team, but it’s also just unnecessary to the narrative. Still it’s a funny, inspirational movie and for an 80s kid very nostalgic – from the bold color patterns on the winter clothing to the inevitable slow clap at the climax of the movie.