A warm heart beats in 'Cool Runnings'

October 01, 1993|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

Cool Runnings" will never be confused with Bergman's "Hour of the Wolf," though both have snow. What "Hour of the Wolf" has is angst, pain, doubt, violence and self-hatred. What "Cool Runnings" has is Jamaicans in bobsleds.

The movie is an amiable goof on the actual appearance of the Jamaican bobsled team at the Calgary Winter Olympics. Though the athletes acquitted themselves well and honorably, and paid little attention to the subtly racist media hoopla that surrounded their competition, the movie makes them look like screwballs in snowsuits. It's not all that respectful of what, after all, was a legitimate athletic success (no matter who won or lost), but in the spirit of ecumenicalism and good intentions, let's say that the movie isn't offensive enough to destroy the good will it achieves. And it has a nice message.

The message is a good one for all to love, cherish, honor and obey: Anyone can do anything if you only give them the chance.

The movie actually follows the old World War II bomber crew formula in which a conventionally stereotypical cross section of the nation is rounded up to man the machine on its hazardous runs. In this case, hardly breaking out of any molds, the four are a determined ex-sprinter (Leon), a screw-up (Doug E. Doug), a rich boy who wants to make his own way in the world (Rawle D. Lewis in the movie's best performance) and a muscular giant (Malik Yoba). One irony is that the ostensible straight-man hero Leon is the least interesting of the four, and his part seems to diminish as the film rushes downhill.

To make things even more predictable, the coach is a fallen ex-Gold Medal winner now running a bar and hiding from a secret shame, well-played by John Candy in one of his more sympathetic, naturalistic modes.

A good deal of money has been spent to make the film's evocation of the Olympics look truly Olympic. To this end, it helps no small amount that the Calgary bobsled course still exists and Disney invested enough in production budget to flood it with extras, approximating the frenzy of the real thing.

"Cool Runnings"

Starring Leon and Doug E. Doug

Directed by Jon Turteltaub

Released by Disney

Rated PG

... **

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