A few months ago I found out a colleague of mine is an extra in Cool Runnings (Jon Turtletaub, 1993), the movie about the debut of the Jamaican bobsled team at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta. In order to spot her, I watched the film, but my expectations were low; I was expecting a pretty broad comedy. Instead, I found Cool Runnings respectful, sincere, and comedic in the best sense; we laugh with the characters, not at them. The four young men who form the team feel fully formed; they're not stereotypes, and each young man has a character arc of his own, as well as a different reason for their quixotic quest for Olympic glory. John Candy plays their grumpy coach, a man shamed by cheating with a different bobsled squad in the distant past. And Candy, too, is good; his role is more dramatic than comedic.
The journey of these five men feels real; it's compelling, dramatic without slipping into hyperbole, touching where it needs to be, and there's even a solid message about character and grit, and how that's more important than winning. The lads' final run down the bobsled course is very moving, though I have no idea if that's how the event played out in reality.
And it was nice to see some location shots of Calgary circa the early 1990s (redressed to look like 1988, of course).
Cool Runnings really surprised me. The film isn't a classic, but its makers should be commended for their efforts.
My favourite line from the movie, from Candy's character:
"Always remember, your bones will not break in a bobsled. No, no, no. They shatter." - John Candy as Irwin Blitzer
Yep, good line.
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