Disney // 1993 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // September 14th, 1999
One Dream. Four Jamaicans. Twenty Below Zero.
One of my favorite and most inspirational movie released in the past ten years, Cool Runnings looks and sounds great on DVD. However, leave it to Buena Vista to stiff you on the extra content.
Although targeted for children, as a fan of the late great John Candy, I went to see this film when originally released in 1993. I left the theater totally shocked at how emotionally touching Cool Runnings turned out to be. In my opinion, John Candy's last good performance was given in this film. Just months after the release of Cool Runnings, John Candy suffered from a heart attack and died, which only made my anticipation for the release of Cool Runnings on video even greater. Forever will I remember John Candy as he is in the last few minutes of this film; comedic but also warm, touching, and extremely human.
Very loosely based on the first Jamaican bobsled team, Cool Runnings begins a few months prior to the 1988 Winter Olympic games in Calgary. Darice Bannock is a gifted runner, following in his father's footsteps, who aims to qualify for the Olympics and run on behalf of his home country. However, during the trials for the Olympic team, Darice and another runner, Yul Brenner, are tripped up by Junior Bevil, the son of a rich Jamaican islander. Darice's chances for competing in the Olympics are squashed until he uncovers a picture of his father and a man named Irv Blitzer (Candy), who once was an Olympic bobsledder. Darice contacts Irv, who just happens to live in Jamaica, and urges him to help organize an Olympic bobsledding team from Jamaica. Irv reluctantly agrees to help Darice as he once believed that using sprinters to push a bobsled would give that team an advantage over others.
Darice recruits his friend Sanka Coffie along with Yul Brenner and Junior Bevil to join the bobsled team. Financed heavily thanks to Junior, the group heads off to the Olympics without a prayer in the world for being able to qualify for the bobsledding event. Once in Calgary, the team experiences much opposition from other bobsled teams (although not dealt with by Disney, but most likely a comparison to the racism the real Jamaican bobsled team faced) as well as many negative feelings towards their coach, Irv, because of his past tampering during the Olympic games. Against all odds, the Jamaicans fight for the chance to compete in winter games, and surprise everyone when they qualify for the bobsledding competition. Before long it appears that nothing will be able to stop the Jamaicans from winning an Olympic medal.
Buena Vista delivers Cool Runnings on DVD with a nice transfer. The image, presented at 1.85:1 widescreen (non-anamorphic, as usual), is free of major flaws. The transfer holds up well as the setting for the film moves from the lush green and blue island of Jamaica to the harsh and bleak winter wonderland that is Calgary. Presented in Dolby Surround, Cool Runnings features a solid audio track. The audio shines during the bobsledding sequences with good surround effects and accurate movement on the front soundstage to follow the action. However, the highlight of the audio track for me was Hans Zimmer's stellar score that accompanied the film. Truly moving, Zimmer captures the essence of the film by saying more with his music than any dialogue ever could.
If a great transfer isn't enough, Buena Vista even provides its consumers with extra content. Yes, it's true, you also receive a theatrical trailer with the Cool Runnings DVD. When I see DVDs like this I can just see how much potential the format has with extra content!
O.K., I'll drop the sarcasm now...
In addition to the fact that the video transfer was not anamorphic, my other problem with this transfer was occasional over saturation with red tones. This over saturation led way to some compression artifacts, but nothing to get too upset over. Buena Vista really does great transfers for most films on DVD, but they just refuse to make these transfers anamorphic. Of course, it's just one big marketing ploy to get everyone to buy these DVDs now, and then in ten years have them buy the discs again, this time with anamorphic widescreen so the films fit widescreen TVs.
I just don't feel like going into my extra content rant anymore. Buena Vista will be the last DVD studio to add extra content to their discs, once all other studios have done it and force Buena Vista into adding this content so they don't appear behind the game. Of course, this probably won't happen for a few more years to come, so we just have to accept the fact that we're not going to get anything extra from Buena Vista anytime soon.
A great film with a solid transfer from Buena Vista, but not much else, which shouldn't surprise any DVD savvy consumer. You just have to ask yourself whether or not you feel the film is good enough to warrant a $25 purchase. Families should definitely check this disc out as a nice rental.
Film acquitted. Buena Vista sentenced to an indefinite term in solitary confinement due to having the least amount of extra content support of all DVD studios.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Theatrical Trailer