Derice Bannock (Leon), a Jamaican sprinter and the son of a gold medal-winning athlete, fails to qualify for the Olympic team but is still determined to win a medal. He forms his country’s first Olympic bobsleigh team and – despite no one taking them seriously – they set out for the Winter Games.
Derice thinks he has just the man to lead his motley group to victory and sets out to find Irving Blitzer (John Candy), an American expatriate living in Jamaica who was once a US bobsled champ and a friend of Derice’s father.
But Irv is a grizzled mess. He’s an island bum and professes no interest in being involved in anything to do with ice.
When, through a series of fibs and near-misses, the team somehow makes its way to Calgary for the 1988 games, Irv’s cloudy past comes back to haunt him. The Jamaicans are taunted by the Nordic types who dominate the other bobsled teams (they bear a striking resemblance to the Hitler Youth), and Irv is shunned by the Olympic brass.
And then suddenly, Cool Runnings shifts gears and becomes Rocky on ice. Those Jamaicans pick themselves up from adversity. They practice, practice, practice and – by gosh – they show the other bobsledders what they’re made of.
If someone had invented the story of a Jamaican bobsleigh team entering the Olympics, they’d have been laughed out of the room. But, as the story is true and Disney knows how to produce feel-good material better than most, what results is a hugely entertaining comedy that’s guaranteed to have you cheering on the underdogs.
Michael Ritchie co-wrote the story on which the film is based, no doubt drawing on his directorial experiences of winter sports – Downhill Racer (1969) – and sporting no-hopers – The Bad News Bears (1976).
Admittedly, it’s a little predictable and patronising at times, but the eager performances of John Candy and his charges carry the day.
Doug E Doug
Rawle D Lewis
Raymond J Barry
Whitby Bevil Snr
Pauline Stone Myrie