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Leave it to Hollywood to take a real life incident and totally repackage it as an inspirational comedy. Sure the concept smacks of the worst form of commercialism, but COOL RUNNINGS ($30) turns out to be a genuine crowd pleaser. While the target audience of this Walt Disney production is the high school level and below, the film will appeal to an older crowd thanks to the presence of John Candy. I loved Candy's antics since the days of SCTV, and his early passing has left of a huge void in the realm of comedy. The plot of COOL RUNNINGS follows a Jamaican sprinter with Olympic aspirations, hoping to follow in his father's footsteps. Unfortunately, an unlucky twist of fate prevents him from making the Jamaican track team.

However, after hearing a crazy idea attributed to one of his father's old friends, our young hero decides that there may still be a way to participate in the next Olympiad. Enter the notion of creating Jamaica's first Olympic bobsled team. With the help of a former Olympic bobsled champion (looking for a way to redeem himself), four Jamaican hopefuls, who have never seen snow, get an express course in the high speed winter sport. Much of the humor in COOL RUNNINGS comes from the fish-out-of-water exploits of the four Jamaicans, who go to Calgary for the 1988 Olympic trials, where the temperature is a balmy twenty below zero. In addition to John Candy, who plays the coach, the cast of COOL RUNNINGS also includes León, Doug E. Doug, Rawle D. Lewis, Malik Yoba, Raymond J. Barry, Peter Outerbridge, Paul Coeur, Larry Gilman and Charles Hyatt.

Walt Disney Home Video offers COOL RUNNINGS on DVD in a Letterboxed presentation that lacks the 16:9 component for wide screen displays. COOL RUNNINGS is presented in its 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio and looks nice when played back on a 4:3 monitor. The image isn't going to blow anyone away, but it is reasonably sharp and clean looking. The lush hues of Jamaica look as good as the winter whites of Calgary on this DVD. Flesh tones appear fairly healthy. Neither chroma noise or digital compression artifacts offered any serious detriment to the image.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack decodes to standard surround with pleasing results. Channel separation is pretty good across the forward soundstage. However, like most matrixed soundtracks, the surround channels are limited, offering little beyond the occasional effect, ambient sounds and musical fill. Dialogue is very cleanly reproduced, as is the musical component of the soundtrack. Subtitles are available on the DVD in English. The basic interactive menus provide the standard scene selection and setup features, as well as giving one access to a theatrical trailer.



DVD reviews are Copyright © 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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