Cool Runnings

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Details At A Glance

Category Comedy None
Year Released 1993
Running Time
94:08 minutes
(not 96 minutes as stated on packaging) 
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Jon Turteltaub
Walt Disney Pictures
Warner Home Video
Starring Leon
Doug E. Doug
Rawle D. Lewis 
Malik Yoba
John Candy
Case Black Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music Hans Zimmer

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ?Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement Yes, rather annoying
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    This further dabble into the back catalogue of titles that have so far eluded our reviewing team brings us to Buena Vista's celebration of the true Olympic spirit - a spirit that unfortunately seems to have gone walkabout in a drug-induced haze over the last decade or so. Whilst there could have been no more absurd notion back in 1988 than to contemplate a bobsled team from the Caribbean, by the end of the games at Calgary there seemed nothing more natural than a Jamaican bobsled team and the fact that they were actually competing for Olympic glory. Whilst Cool Runnings is inspired by those rather unbelievable events of 1988, I would guess that the inspiration, in the best Buena Vista traditions, is rather loose and the truth would not really get in the way of good, funny story.

    The story starts with the annual push-cart championships during which one Sanka Coffie (Doug E. Doug) once again proves himself the best on the island. The only problem is that Sanka is a man lacking ambition and a man very contented with the relaxed rasta lifestyle of the island. Derice Bannock (Leon) on the other hand is a man on a mission - to represent Jamaica in the 100 metre sprint at the Summer Olympics, just as his father once did. And so at the Olympic trials, things are looking good, at least until Junior Bevil (Rawle D. Lewis) precipitates the elimination of not only Derice but also one Yul Brenner (Malik Yoba). When Derice cannot convince the Jamaican Olympic Committee to re-run the trial, he heads off in search of a former associate of his father, one Irwin Blitzer (John Candy), a former two time gold medal winner in the real Jamaican sport of bobsled. Twenty years ago, Irwin tried to convince Derice's old man to switch to the bobsled - and now he has to ward off the efforts of Derice, and Sanka, to do the same. Since that would end the film after about ten minutes, obviously Derice convinces Irwin and a meeting is set up to conscript two other members to the Jamaican Bobsled team. Plenty turn up to the meeting, but after a few visuals the crowd reduces to a gathering of - none. But naturally two other members are found and they are of course - Junior and Yul. And so we then indulge in the antics of the team as they come to grips with the bobsled, cold weather (and believe me it can get very cold in Alberta), antagonism, inexperience and nerves as they pursue their Olympic dream in the ideal, and truly Caribbean, climate of Calgary, Alberta in the middle of winter.

    As is quite typical for a comedy from this source, the story is not exactly riveting but is more than passable and reasonably amusing. For instance, having experienced some pretty cold weather in my time, the scene as the intrepid bobsledders leave the warmth of the airport in Calgary always produces mild amusement. The rather predictable aspect of the story is the rather clichéd portrayal of Jamaicans as rasta devotees, and in this respect Doug E. Doug makes a fair turn, but one that hardly raises above the level of decent. Thankfully, the rasta aspect is toned down in the three other characterizations, but they still sort of capture some of the other clichés of the island - little, spoilt man-child of wealthy Jamaican made good, athlete with the sole intent of making the Olympics and the Jamaican who wants nothing more than to get off the island. In that respect Rawle D. Lewis, Leon and Malik Yoba all capture the characterizations pretty well. But as ever it is the late and sadly missed John Candy that steals the show here. His effort as the former athlete turned down-on-his-luck bookie may not be the best thing he has ever done, but it is certainly a highlight here. Cool Runnings is another film under the direction of Jon Turteltaub that may not rank amongst the true classics of cinema, but ends up making its way into my player reasonably regularly for the very simple reason that it is an enjoyable piece of entertainment. In other words, exactly the reason why we watch films.

Transfer Quality


    Cool Runnings is another of the earlier Buena Vista releases that managed to get a decent transfer.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is quite sharp and well-detailed throughout, although once again there are just a few odd lapses here and there. They do not however really attract too much attention to themselves. Clarity was in general excellent, and there did not seem to be any problem with grain here at all. Shadow detail was generally very good. There did not seem to be any low level noise problems with the transfer.

    The colours come up pretty well here, although I do have to say that I really was anticipating a much brighter image than what we actually got. This has always been the problem with this transfer. I noticed it the very first time I watched this DVD and it always strikes me every time that I sit and rewatch it. I guess it is simply because that as good as the colours are, they just give the impression of being a little on the flattish side. Greens do not have the sort of rich vibrancy that made, say, Mighty Joe Young shine, the reds simply do not have the brightness that was anticipated and so on. A good effort, but one that really should have been a lot better in my view. At least there is a general consistency in the saturation of the colours, although the odd occurrence of oversaturation is noted - most especially at around the 73:45 mark where Junior's red pants really get a bit ghastly-looking. The rare oversaturation does create just the odd issue with colour bleeding.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There were some very minor problems with aliasing in the transfer, but nothing that really disrupts the film. There did not seem to be any problems with film artefacts.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are three audio tracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack and an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack. I listened to the English soundtrack since I could not be bothered jumping back to the setup menu to change the soundtrack - the usual common and annoying problem on Buena Vista DVDs.

    Dialogue is clear and generally easy to understand throughout.

    There did not appear to be any problem with audio sync problems with the transfer.

    The musical score comes from Hans Zimmer, and it has to be said that it is not exactly a really memorable effort - it is decently complementary to the film and the theme is reasonably memorable enough, but it just lacks a little of the rhythm of the islands.

    In general, for a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack, this sounds as good as can be expected. There was some nice use of the surround channel, with a reasonable amount of ambience thrown into the mix. Naturally it does not have the same zing as a full 5.1 soundtrack, which at times is just a little too obvious - the crash of the bobsled being one obvious example. Still, the sound is quite open and there is never any feeling of congestion, nor any problems with distortion. The bass channel obviously does not get any run here at all.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Bobsledding is a fairly physical sport, with the participants taking a rather savage beating about the body in the G-forces generated on some of the tight turns. Obviously they must have carried the master DVD on the run down the 'chute, as all the extras have been shaken off the DVD.


R4 vs R1

    The Region 1 DVD apparently is as bare bones as the Region 4, but dips out on 16x9 enhancement. NTSC format without 16x9 enhancement is not a combination I willingly suffer, so another winner from Region 4 in my view.


    Cool Runnings is an enjoyable film that makes something of an attempt to capture the true Olympic spirit. It wears repeated viewings pretty well and is definitely one of those films that you can toss into the player when the weight of the world starts to bear down upon your shoulders. It may not give you an instant lift, but it gets there eventually. Recommended, especially as there are no real technical problems with the DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
2nd October 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL