Movies watched when we are younger hold a special place in our hearts. Even if we learn those movies are not masterpieces as we grow older, nostalgia still holds sway on our perceptions. Should we try to generate the same love for these movies in our children that we have? Some classics will always stand the test of time, but what is the right age to introduce kids to some of those films? Who knew two sports stories extremely loosely based on true life events could be made from the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Cool Runnings starring Leon, only one name on his IMBD page, Doug E, Doug, John Candy and directed by Jon Turteltaub. The movie tells the story of how a group of Jamaican sprinters formed a bobsled team and competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics. The movie is heavily fictionalized from the true life events, but if you can get over this fact the story it tells is funny and uplifting. The one thing I realized re-watching was how stereotyped some of the Jamaican characters were in the film. Not the best thing to introduce children too, but I think the uplifting nature of the story outweighs the negatives.
Common sense media has an age rating for Cool Runnings of 8 plus. There is nothing in the movie which would prevent me from letting my four year old watch the movie, besides the stereotyping. There is no sex, no bad language, and one bar fight were no blood is shown. I honestly couldn’t remember if this movie was rated G or PG before doing research. It is rated PG, but the bar fight is probably the only reason it got pushed to this rating. I think my four year old is probably still too young to be intrigued by the story, but it still should catch my eleven year olds interest.
The story is simple enough. Derice Bannock’s dream is to make it to the Olympics. He is an accomplished sprinter and tries to qualify for the summer games in Seoul in 1988. A stumble by another sprinter during the 100 meter finale causes him to trip and fall and lose his chance at competing. He decides to try and become an Olympic bobsledder and enlists the help of his friend, Sanka, a pushcart driver, and a disgraced American coach, Irv, to make his dream become a reality. Perseverance and determination drive Derice to achieve his goal. He will not stop until he becomes an Olympian. He’s not a perfect character though, he must realize emulating the best does not equal success. You also have to be true to yourself to fully succeed. Derice and the other teammates must bond together and become a team accomplish their goals. Even though they don’t accomplish the ultimate goal of getting a medal, they compete to the best of their ability and finish with their heads held high.
The film, even with its uplifting story, is not a cinematic masterpiece. In fact watching it again made me realize how poorly the movie is put together. The story at certain points doesn’t seem to flow very well. The interaction of John Candy’s character with his former teammate stick out in particular. He runs into him by chance, then out of the blue asks him to meet him for lunch. Then at lunch he asks to buy a bobsled from him. The whole point of the exchange is so Irv can buy a sled for his team. This needed to be in the movie, but it shouldn’t have taken two scenes. Both scenes have so much wasted dialogue and strange interaction it seems like the screenwriter or director was floundering at this point in the movie. Anyone younger isn’t going to notice the tonal inconsistencies these scenes have, but as someone coming back and watching again they stood out. The movie doesn’t hold up extremely well going back to watch again, but it is still an endearing story, and the comedy, though silly, still had me chuckling.
The comedy should hold up for a younger crowd. It is mostly slapstick and physical comedy, with Doug E. Doug providing most of the comic relief. John Candy was always a comedic force in any movie he was in. This was more of a subdued role for him, but he still had a few moments, and he is probably the best actor in the movie. Without him turning in a good performance the movie would have been ridiculous overall. He gives it believability and credibility, even if most of the story isn’t based on the actual account. I think kids would be able to pick up on this if Candy didn’t anchor the movie.
I still really enjoy Cool Runnings, but I have to admit it is probably more for nostalgia than the movie being good. The message is still uplifting and the comedy still lands, but the strange pacing and scene setup detracts from the movie. This shouldn’t affect younger kid’s enjoyment and anyone 6 or over can enjoy the film. I think once someone gets past 15 or 16 they aren’t going to enjoy the movie as much when watching it for the first time. They need to have some childlike innocence and optimism to look past some of the cheesy tone the movie has.
When was the first time you watched Cool Runnings? When was the last time you watched it, and do you think it holds up? If you are a parent now have you introduced your kids to the movie? Comment and let me know.