Loosely based on real events, Cool Runnings was a surprise hit for Disney back in 1993 and it's still one of the most beloved sports movies out there.
The story of the first Jamaican bobsled team charmed audiences with its lighthearted tone, likeable cast and Olympic spirit. The film introduces us to the main players as they fail to qualify for the Olympics as sprinters and decide to team-up in the hope of making it to the Winter Games as bobsledders. They hire the help of has-been champion coach Irv Blitzer (John Candy) who, like everyone else in town, doesn't believe in them at first but soon realises they might actually stand a chance. The idea that everyone in Jamaica would be literally laughing out loud at the thought of a bunch of guys putting together a bobsled team is not all that convincing, especially in the over-the-top way the film portrays that. Granted, the lack of ice in Jamaica and the bobsledders' inexperience would no doubt prompt some skepticism but not to such an extent.
Leon plays Derice, the optimist of the group and also its leader, Rawle D. Lewis is Junior, the clumsy geek, Malik Yoba is the amusingly named Yul Brenner, the tough guy, and Doug E. Doug is Sanka, the mouthy comic relief. The latter's jokey antics are pretty hit-and-miss but younger viewers won't complain. The relationships between all the other characters, however, actually feel genuine and you certainly buy the unlikely friendship they build throughout the film. John Candy is perfectly cast as the disgraced coach who gets a shot at a noble return to the Olympic Games. This was one of the actor's last roles and he delivered a more restrained, emotional performance which would have probably earned him an Oscar nomination had the film not been such a lighthearted, at times flat-out goofy, comedy. The humour works and doesn't work depending on the scene but overall, Cool Runnings' heart is in the right place and is about as harmless as it gets.
It's hard to deny the charm of this film, even with its cheesy (look out for the infamous slow-clap) and juvenile moments. Cool Runnings is a fun family-friendly sports movie with some enjoyable performances, a few laughs, cartoonishly evil Germans and even some bobsledding.