Movie Summary for "Cool Runnings"

by Harrison Pennybaker
The movie plays on the unlikeliness of a Jamaican bobsled team.

The movie plays on the unlikeliness of a Jamaican bobsled team.

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The 1993 comedy film "Cool Runnings" is based on the true story of Jamaica's first bobsled team and its appearance at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. The movie, directed by Jon Turteltaub, stars John Candy along with Doug E. Doug, Leon Robinson (credited simply as "Leon"), Rawle D. Lewis and Malik Yoba.

Finding a Coach

The film begins with Irving Blitzer (Candy) -- sometimes called "Irv" -- a former bobsledder and double gold medalist who is washed up. Irv has been disqualified for cheating and has subsequently retired to Jamaica to escape the shame. In Jamaica, Irv works as a bookie and struggles to make ends meet. He is approached by a Jamaican speed runner -- Derice Bannock (Leon) -- and pushcart champion Sanka Coffie (Doug). The two have the idea that rather than compete in their own sports, they would like to try to make it to the Winter Olympics through bobsledding.

A Full Team/Olympic Fundraising

With some convincing, Irv agrees to take on coaching the team, and two other athletes -- sprinters Junior Bevil (Lewis) and Yul Brenner (Yoba) join the team, too. The team then focuses its attention on raising the necessary money to compete for the Olympics. The members try a number of tactics for raising money, such as hosting a kissing booth and panhandling on the street. These attempts fail, and it is only when Junior sells his car that the team assembles enough money to head to the Games.

In Calgary

The team arrives in Calgary and gets hold of a used American practice sled. Up to this point, the team has never been in an actual bobsled, and other countries competing at the Games are suspect or dismissive of the Jamaican group. After a bar fight with the East German team -- whose members tell the Jamaican team to go home -- the Jamaicans resolve to try harder to improve their chances at qualifying. Eventually the team does qualify.

Olympic Competition

The team finishes last on its first day of racing, after attempting to mimic the style of other bobsledders. On the second day, with a more personalized style, the team improves its performance, succeeds at a fast run and pushes itself into eighth place. On the final run -- as the team is flying toward a record time -- a blade breaks off the sled, flipping it over. The sled slides to a stop just short of the finish line, and the team members crawl out, pick up their sled and walk it across the line as the spectators cheer. The film ends with a note stating that the team returned home to Jamaica "as heroes" and returned to the Olympics four years later "as equals" to the other competing teams.


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