Four Jamaicans form their country's first ever bobsled team to compete in the upcoming 1988 Winter Olympics. They enlist the help of a disgraced former Olympic gold winner to reluctantly coach them. However, when they reach Canada they're treated as outsiders by the other teams, who fear they'll only succeed in embarrassing the sport.Written by
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This one of those family-oriented sports movies that I have fond memories of from my elementary school days. Off the top of my head, I can name The Air Up There, Iron Will, and the Mighty Ducks in this category as well. They weren't masterpieces, per se, but they were pleasant, fun, and sometimes inspirational.
The thing about a sports movie is that the passion that a dedicated athlete feels is usually something that can translate itself visually on screen. For instance, if you were to make a movie about a passionate chess player, it's not as exciting to watch the final climactic moment when the hero checkmates his opponent, as it is to watch a game winning shot. What I'm getting to is that one of the draws of a sports movie is being exposed to that passion and desire in our hero.
In this case, the hero is Jamaican sprinter Derice Bannock who was accidentally tripped during the Olympic trials, but is determined to make the Olympics anyway. Since track's no longer an option for him, he figures why not start the nation's first bobsledding team, since a bobsled team hasn't been fielded yet. He also is encouraged in the sport by the fact that a friend of his dad happens to be a bobsled coach and he might be able to help. The bobsled coach declines citing as his reasons that there's no ice in Jamaica, that there's not enough time to train, that Derice doesn't have 3 other people which is needed to form a team, that he doesn't even think Derice was a good runner, and that he doesn't even like coaching anymore.
Nevertheless, Derice manages to convince the coach, and get three teammates consisting of his best friend, the guy who tripped him in the trials, and another sprinter who got tripped in the trials along with him. This is one of the better sources of entertainment in the film because the dynamics of this team are formed under such unusual circumstance. For instance, Yul, one of the two who got tripped during the trials, still hasn't forgiven Junior, the tripper.
The film very cleverly finds a balance between the inspirational element of this story and the humor. Essentially, Derice the most determined member of the group, is a person who we come to admire for his persistence, and maybe that's why it's a good family film, someone kids can look up to. The humor comes from Derice's friend, Sanka, who says a lot of funny stuff. This really is the only way the movie could work because if Derice was funny and told jokes, you wouldn't take him seriously, and if Sanka was more determined about winning, his jokes would sound out of context. The two guys in the middle of the bobsled, both metaphorically and literally, add to the film in their own ways but on a smaller scale. The late John Candy plays the coach and fills the part well.
The other notable thing about the film is it's ending. Provided, this is your first viewing, it really does a lot for the movie. I won't give it away, but the ending is unpredictable yet equally satisfying, something I don't often see. However, I wonder, since this was filmed only five years after the Calgary Olympics, how familiar would viewers have been with the actual event that inspired the film. If they knew the story of the '88 Jamaican bobsled team in its entirety, than the impact of that ending would have been lost.
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