Monday, 9 March 2009

Movie Review - Cool Runnings

Cool Runnings was one of those films I wanted to watch when it was out at the flicks but never quite got around to. It is also the sort of film that looks as if it’s either going to be really good or really bad. The fact that it’s Disney also doesn’t help in this matter – the quality of their films in recent years has been variable to say the least. Apart from the excellent John Candy (I think this was the last film he ever made before his sad demise?), the cast was full of unknowns. Candy is good, although perhaps not as good as he was in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles". But still good. The rest of the cast fulfill thir roles admirably well, although none of them seem to have really one much since then... at least, not anything that I've seen!

Well, let me tell you that I wish now I had seen it at the cinema, it falls into the “really good” category, Disney got it right on this occasion, and the cast is excellent. Without giving away the plot too much, the story follows the formation of the first ever Jamaican bobsleigh team, and their debut performance in the winter Olympics at Calgary. How much truth there is to the other events is debatable, although given Disney’s penchant for disregarding practically all historical details, there probably isn’t any at all.

For this sort of comedy, the characterisation is done very well. The characters are 1.5d – not really fully developed characters, but better than the one-dimensional sort you often get in comedies. The film is really about a voyage of discovery – for them individually, and for the team. Their coach (Candy) has a dark secret from his past. The title favourites (the Swiss and East Germans) are snotty and arrogant, but with a good side that shows itself at the end.

The humour is derived from many sources; slapstick, dialogue, character-based, cultural, commentary by the Jamaicans at home listening on the official Olympic commentary (this is really funny), action-oriented… This is one of those rare gems that all members of the family will enjoy. Needless to say, it has a typically Jamaican soundtrack, which is very good and fits in perfectly with the feel-good nature of the film. A particularly good scene early on is where they try to raise money for the team in... unorthodox ways.

Serious subjects (such as cheating, prejudice, parental interference) are dealt with here with surprising skill. The film is too short for much in the way of subtlety, but the film gets good messages across without becoming patronising.

I’ve read some of the other reviews here, and without exception they use the words “heart-warming tearjerker” to describe the film. And there’s no getting around it, I have to use those same words as they sum things up perfectly. Your emotions really do get involved, and that will make you enjoy it even more.

Replay value is good. It’s the sort of thing you could watch several times, and it doesn’t matter in the slightest that you know what’s coming.

Cinematography is also excellent, with real-life footage from the Olympics expertly interwoven with the film. The stunts and crazy scenes (chase the bobsleigh down the mountain)are well done, and when the film gets a bit more serious, lighting and mood are handled with great skill.

Overall I really like this film. For light entertainment it's just about perfect.

See also my Top Ten Children's Movies

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