Cool Runnings (1993)

Let Me Kiss Your Lucky Egg

After that last downer of a movie, I needed to be reassured that a movie about black people could raise my spirits and not crush them.  But wherever would I find such a movie?  The answer came in the form of a live-action Disney movie that I had last seen in my youth, requested for review by my friend Yimmy.  And it’s just the movie to close your day out with after being thoroughly depressed by Precious.  Based not on a book by Sapphire, but on a true story from the 1988 Winter Olympics.  Based on the debut of the Jamaica national bobsled team I give you my review … of Cool Runnings, written by Lynn Siefert, Tommy Swerdlow, and Michael Goldberg, directed by Jon Turteltaub, and starring Leon Robinson, Doug E. Doug, Malik Yoba, Rawle D. Lewis, John Candy, Raymond J. Barry, and Peter Outerbridge.  It’s bobsled time!

Derice Bannock (Leon Robinson) has a dream to follow in his father’s footsteps and get into the Olympics as a sprinter.  He practices all the time for it.  When the time comes for the qualifying race, he goes up against really angry dude Yul Brenner (Malik Yoba) and meek rich kid Junior Bevil (Rawle D. Lewis), but Junior trips and makes Derice and Brenner fall as well, losing the race for all three.  While trying to argue his way into another shot at the race, Derice finds out that his father was once propositioned by Irving Blitzer (John Candy) to become a bobsledder.  Derice then begs Blitzer into becoming the coach of Jamaica’s first Olympic bobsled team, comprised of Derice, Junior, Brenner, and Derice’s long-time friend Sanka Coffie (Doug E. Doug).  Our boys face plenty of adversity on their way to the Olympics, such as funding, disapproving parents, loss of the sense of self, being the laughing stocks of the Olympics, and Blitzer’s tainted history.  Something tells me the boys are gonna be just fine.

There is plenty to be said that is “wrong” with this movie, but I can’t help myself: this movie is good times.  It utilizes plenty of cliches and has some laughs that are easy, but it’s good times.  It’s a movie that makes you feel good like you’re Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball.  It’s a comedy, but generally the laughs play more as quaint than funny.  It is, however, a kid friendly comedy, so that’s to be expected.  You’ll see some slapsticky comedy too, as that’s mostly what kids would find funny, but there were a couple of parts in the movie that made me chuckle.  But, I would say that this movie is far more of a feel-good movie than a comedy, and it succeeds in leaving a warm feeling in your belly.  They do settle for a lot of pretty easy staples of the “overcoming adversity” genre.  You’ll find an inexplicably asinine competitor, the movie will REQUIRE at least one montage, and just for good measure, throw in a slow clap.  And I bet those asinine competitors will see the error in the way and deliver a few good “You know what?  You’re all right” lines.  One might also think that the finale ::SPOILERS:: of the bobsled team crashing in their final run and walking across the finish line to massive applause is a bit cliche, except for one little thing: them shits happened!  And they used the footage of the actual crash of the Jamaican bobsled team in the movie, and just switched it over to them carrying the broken bobsled instead of walking it across the finish line.  ::END SPOILERS::  Typically, I would be annoyed by such abuse of cliches, but this movie charms me so much that I’m cool with it.  It’s a fantastic example of the underdog movie.  I also took note of the fact that they didn’t go for the easy and obvious racism route (since the black team has a bit of a feud with the white team), but their feud wasn’t about race, but location.  The “popular kids” were popular because they’re from an icy location that would be expected to succeed in such a sport, especially over a team from a tropical island place that would seemingly have no right to participate.  It also has a nice overall message that you shouldn’t change who you are just to win, but succeed by finding out who you really are and what’s really important.

The performances are all fine in the movie, but most of the people don’t really have to stretch their acting chops in order to pull off their part.  Leon Robinson is the de facto leader of the team, and has to face his own little identity crisis, but never really has to emote that hard.  Doug E. Doug also doesn’t really emote, but he’s mainly here to be comic relief.  He’s almost the only person that even tries to be openly funny in the movie.  Rawle D. Lewis probably has the most emotion in his part because of his brief conflict with his disapproving father, and he does it fine.  Malik Yoba never really convinced me that he was as much of a tough guy as he was made out to be in the movie, but he still did a fine job.  John Candy was the biggest draw in the movie for me, but also a bit depressing.  He was so damned good and it is such a freaking shame that the man is gone.  He never really hammed for laughs in the movie, but did get a couple.  He also had an impassioned speech or two and a couple of good emotional scenes regarding the reason his gold medals had been taken away from him.  Damnit John Candy’s good as shit!

This movie was never intended to win an Oscar, but it succeeds in winning your heart.  Yeah, that’s good shit right there, Robert!  The writing is a little easy, either because it goes for a bunch of cliche’s or because it bases itself on a real story, but it works.  It’s cute, it’s charming, it’s heart-warming.  The performances are all fine, and John Candy was awesome.  I miss you, Barf!  Thank you, Yimmy, for pestering me into watching a movie to take me out of the slump that Fabio’s Precious put me into.  Cool Runnings gets “I didn’t realize that four black guys in a bobsled could make you blush” out of “I see pride, I see power”.

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!