A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this underdog sports movie is based on the Jamaican bobsled team's appearance in the 1988 Olympic Games, the characters, most of the situations, and all of the conflict are heavily fictionalized. The resulting feel-good fairytale offers positive messages about sportsmanship, going after your dreams, and believing in yourself ... as well as some cartoonish potrayals of both the Jamaican people and their culture and some of their bobsleddding rivals (particularly the East Germans). A number of bobsled accidents are depicted, and there's one brief barroom brawl -- but no injuries or blood. Expect occasional mild swearing and lots of visible products/logos.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
COOL RUNNINGS is loosely based on the real-life 1988 Jamaican bobsled team. When an accident prevents Derice Bannock (Leon) from making Jamaica's Olympic track team, he searches for another way to compete. Derice convinces Irv Blitzer (John Candy), a former gold medalist, to coach his team. The team overcomes some serious setbacks to make it to the Olympic games.
Is it any good?
You've seen this underdog material done before, from the sublime Rocky to the embarrassingly cliched (virtually any Rocky sequel). Cool Runnings taps both qualities. At one end you've got the Jamaican team, a colorful, contrived bunch of squabblers who predictably learn to pull together and defy their detractors (mainly a rival team of stereotyped East German Nazi-Commie storm troopers). But then comes the real-world finale, when the heroes lose the race but achieve a much greater goal, symbolizing what the Olympics truly mean to athletes around the globe. Seldom in sports movies has defeat looked so noble.
Younger viewers may want to learn more about Olympic bobsledding, or Jamaica, if only to sort out the facts from the fiction. The novice 1988 Jamaican bobsledders were actually conceived by a businessman and an ex-diplomat, and they did wipe out in the midst of a spectacular performance. "Irv," however, and the other characters are screenwriter inventions, and they seem like it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why the filmmakers made things up for the movie, rather than sticking with the true story. Why do you think that happens?
Is bobsledding as engaging a sport as football, baseball, or basketball? Why or why not?
What is the movie saying about sportsmanship and the spirit of the Olympic Games?
- In theaters: October 10, 1993
- On DVD or streaming: July 20, 1999
- Cast: Doug E. Doug, John Candy, Malik Yoba
- Director: Jon Turteltaub
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: brief language
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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