Movie - 1993, PG, 98 minutes, Disney; IMDb entry
Genre - Comedy, Family
Cast - Leon, Doug E. Doug, Rawle D. Lewis, Malik Yoba, and John Candy
Director - Jon Turtletaub
DVD - 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 2.0 Surround (English), subtitles - English; single-sided, single-layered disc; $19.99 SRP (reduced from $29.99), Released 8/24/99

Movie - Cool Runnings is an immensely likeable family comedy, and is perhaps best known for being John Candy's last great film. Candy himself was an immensely likable comic actor who appeared in a number of the most beloved comedies of the 1980s and 1990s. Cool Runnings tells the remarkable true story of the first ever Jamaican bobsled team, which competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics. The movie is a lot of fun, and while it undoubtedly takes artistic liberties with the real events, it does so with brilliant effect, resulting in one of the most enjoyable family films of the decade. Candy plays Irv Blitzer, a former Gold medal winner who has let himself go and is now making money as a bookie in Jamaica. Irv is approached by Derrice Bannock (Leon), the son of one of Irv's old friends, who after failing to qualify for the Summer Olympics in the 100-yard sprint, is determined to find some way to get into the Olympics. With Irv as the coach, Derrice, friend Sanka Coffie (Doug E. Doug), and fellow athletes Yul Brenner (Yoba) and Junior Bevil (Lewis) give their best effort into becoming Jamaica's first bobsled team, while having to overcome many challenges, from the freezing cold weather in Calgary to their fellow competitor's unwillingness to take Jamaica seriously. Consistently funny and entertaining, Cool Runnings is a pefect example of a well-done feel-good live-action Disney film.

Video - As one of Disney's very first DVD releases, Cool Runnings is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. While the DVD undoubtedly would have benefitted from 16:9 enhancement, video quality looks fairly solid, nonetheless. There is a colorful pallette on display in this film, from the beautiful vibrant Jamaican scenery to the almost-tangible icy cold blues of Calgary. There are some minor print flaws from time-to-time but these certainly do not detract from one's enjoyment of the movie. Overall, a pleasant video transfer that is not flawless, but is a fairly pleasing effort. It's worth noting that the movie is framed at a ratio of about 1.75:1, as opposed to the 1.85:1 that it most commonly was projected at in theaters. However, framing seems perfect, so the minimal loss or gain of information (provided that that is the explanation) is not an issue.

Audio - A little bit disapointing is the lack of a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. We do get a Dolby Surround track, which does make what it can of its limited speaker setup. The lively soundtrack of Jamaican rhythms comes through fine, although a 5.1 track would allow for a wider and more soundfield. There is limited surround usage, particularly in the actual bobsled runs. While 5.1 would certainly beneficial, for Dolby Surround, the track is okay.

Extras - Just the theatrical trailer in fullscreen and 2.0 audio. An entertaining trailer indeed, but a commentary or featurette would have been nice additions as well. You do get a sense that supplemental materials exist from the DVD release of The Kid in which director Jon Turtletaub talks about working with John Candy and we see some footage from the set. More extras would have certainly been welcome, especially if they had the materials.

Closing Thoughts - Cool Runnings is a thoroughly enjoyable feel-good comedy. The film could use a better DVD, but if you're looking to own the movie, this disc is the best you can expect. The video quality blows VHS out of the water, and this is one of the DVDs where you decide to purchase based on the film quality, more so than the rather barebones DVD. On the film quality alone, I'd heartily recommend this one.

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