Derice Bannock is a sprinter and wants to compete in the 1988 Olympic Games in athletics, hoping to live up to the legacy of his gold-winning father Ben. However, his competitor, Junior, trips and brings him down along with Yul Brenner (no, not that one) during the qualifying sprint race. The officials refuse to rerun the race, dashing the hopes of Derice and other competitors. Derice then has the idea to compete... at the Winter Olympics, in bobsledding.
Derice first convinces his friend Sanka to join him, then he finds Irving Blitzer, a surly former bobsledder himself and old friend of his father, who reluctantly agrees to coach him and his team. Irv tries to get out of it by showing a film reel of nothing but sled crashes to a crowd of potential teammates, but all this does is bring Junior and Yul to the team. The rest of the film is about working to overcome their lack of experience, the opposition of the Olympic Committee, the jeering and disbelief of the other teams, the internal struggles within the team, and the cold weather of Canada.
The film has some goofy farce and some dramatic moments, though it might lean a bit too much toward the former to qualify as a Dramedy.
This film provides examples of:
- The Ace: The largely unseen Swiss team. Derice idolizes them and tries to model himself after them because they're some of the best athletes in the world.
- An Aesop: Two are given to Derice, which help in his Character Development.
- The first one is from Sanka: Trying to imitate those who are better than you won't improve your act. Just be yourself, for that's the best you can ever be.Sanka: Let me tell you somethin' Rasta, I didn't come up here to forget who I am and where I come from...If we look Jamaican, walk Jamaican, talk Jamaican and IS Jamaican, then we sure as hell better bobsled Jamaican.
- The second one is from Irv: Winning is important, but not as important as determination and integrity. If you do things you're not proud of to win, you'll never forgive yourself at best, and feel completely worthless if you're caught.Irving: A gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you're not enough without it, you'll never be enough with it.
Derice: Hey coach, how will I know if I'm enough?
Irv: When you cross that finish line tomorrow, you'll know.
- The first one is from Sanka: Trying to imitate those who are better than you won't improve your act. Just be yourself, for that's the best you can ever be.
- The Alleged Car:
- The bobsled, a rickety old sled that cleans up nicely, but initially looks like crap. It also breaks in the final moments of the last run, costing them a world record.
- Sanka's beat up Volkswagen Beetle.
- Anachronism Stew: A shot of flags waving in the wind shows those of Romania and Russia. The former would have had a coat of arms that was removed after the collapse of the country's communist regime in 1989, and the latter would have taken part as the Soviet Union. note
- Answer Cut: Starting in Mr. Coolidge's office.Derice: Just one more thing...what's a bobsled?
(cut to Derice kicking the wheels off Sanka's push-cart)
Derice: That's a bobsled.
Sanka: Oh, so a bobsled is a push-cart with no wheels!
- Artistic License Sports/Broad Strokes:
- The Switzerland bobsleigh is shown has having "Schweiz"note painted along the side, instead of "Suisse"note , the one the Swiss teams traditionally use.
- The competition is shown as being decided on three runs over three days, rather than four runs over two days.
- Each sport in the Winter Olympics is organised by their respective world governing body, rather than the "International Alliance of Winter Sports".
- As there is no set length for a bobsleigh run, world records don't exist in the sport.
- The Jamaicans are portrayed as having a chance of a medal before crashing in their final run. In real life, in their final run they would have had to shatter the Olympic record by an unrealistic margin to win bronze.
- In real life the Olympic athletics trials would never have been held 10 months before the Summer Games. They were actually held after the Winter Games.
- With only five men finishing in the 100m Olympic trial, there would have been a vacancy in the six-man 4x100m relay squad. This would surely have been offered to Derice as the Jamaican #1, so he would have gone to the Summer Olympics after all.
- It is implied that Irv's cheating in the 1972 Games got his 1968 gold medals withdrawn. Being disqualified at one Games would not have impacted on his awards from a previous clean performance note .
- The shot of flags mentioned in "Anachronism Stew" above also shows Sri Lanka's flag. As of 2018, they have never competed at the Winter Olympics.
- The Atoner:
- Irv, who was disgraced after cheating at bobsledding in the 1972 games, which ended his career. He seeks to redeem himself with Derice's team.
- Also Junior, who accepts responsibility for the fact that his tripping is what kept the sprinters from going to the Summer Olympics and sells his car to fund their trip to Calgary in order to make amends.
- Badass Boast: After Irv declares how impressed he was with Ben Bannock's 100m dash in 10 seconds flat, Derice tells him, "I've run it in 9.9."
- Bald of Awesome: Yul Brenner.
- Bar Brawl: Yul, Junior and Sanka start one with the East German team in a famous cowboy bar after they insult Junior.
- "Begone" Bribe: The result of Sanka's fundraising song."I'll pay you a dollar to shut up!"
- Bittersweet Ending: The Jamaicans crash in their final race, but they prove to their countrymen, their fellow Olympians, and themselves that they are true bobsledders and the epilogue reveals the team returns to the next Winter Olympics.
- Brand X: The IOC is replaced with the fictional "International Alliance of Winter Sports"
- Bring My Brown Pants:[after being told to "hold it" by his coach before a run, the team has crashed on the course]
Derice: Well, at least you can pee now.
Sanka: ...nnn, too late.
- Broken Ace: Irv Blitzer used to be a two-time Olympic gold medalist with multiple world records. Then he cheated, got caught, and was expelled from his sport. His mind and instincts are still razor sharp, but he's now incredibly overweight (he probably weighs more than the bobsleds he used to ride) and is a bitter, lonely cynic.
- Catchphrase: Several phrases are repeated several times. Some of them are changed near the end, to indicate Character Development. For example, "Sanka/Derice, you dead?" "Ya, mon." becomes "No mon, I'm not dead. We have to finish the race... ", while Grool's derisively calling the guys "Jamaica" becomes a term of respect/endearment at the end.
- Also, as Yul and Junior start to interact, Yul develops a habit of doing something nice for Junior and punctuating it with, "This doesn't mean I like you." The final time he says it, it's after he's just given Junior a huge hug.
- Cerebus Callback: See Catchphrase
- Champions on the Inside: They lost, but they proved they can compete in the Winter Olympics and earned the respect of their global peers.
- Character Development:
- Derice overcomes self-doubt (Trying to imitate the Swiss, wanting to know why Irv cheated when he was an Olympian, and wondering what is "good enough")
- Yul Brenner overcomes his anger at Junior and, for the most part, drops his standoffish behavior.
- Junior gets more self-confident and stands up to his father.
- Irv banishes the demons of his past.
- Sanka overcomes the cold.
- Chekhov's Skill: Sanka is established early on as the best push-cart driver in Jamaica, so he naturally assumes that he'll be the bobsled driver. Subverted when Irv makes him the brake man, as driving a bobsled entails more responsibility than Sanka can handle.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Sanka's more on the goofy end of this trope.
- Crazy Enough to Work:Mr. Coolidge: Can you imagine a Jamaican bobsled team?
(Derice starts thinking, "Yeah...")
- Declaration of Personal Independence: Junior delivers one to his father when he finally stands up to him.Junior: Father...when you look at me, what do you see?
Father: I don't have time for games, Junior.
Junior: Tell me what you see! Please.
Father: All right, I'll tell you what I see. I see a lost little boy who is lucky to have a father who knows what's best for him.
Junior: No, no, no, you don't know what's best for me, Father! I am not a "lost little boy", Father! I am a man, Father, and I am an Olympian! And I'm staying right here.
- Determinator: Derice.Blitzer: Do the words "Give up" mean anything to you?
Derice: Not a thing.
- Did You Die?:Derice: Sanka... you dead?
Sanka: Ya, mon.
- Gets a Call-Back near the end of the movie:Sanka: Derice... you dead?
Derice: No, man. I'm not dead. But we got to finish the race. (they all get up from under the overturned sled and carry it to the finish line)
- Gets a Call-Back near the end of the movie:
- Does This Remind You of Anything?Junior: Seemin' to you nobody likes us?
Yul Brynner: We're different. People are always afraid of what's different.
- It's probably not a coincidence that everyone on the East German team is blonde haired or blue eyed, or both.
- Dreadlock Rasta: Sanka. Irv sticks him in a freezer at one point to get him used to the Canadian cold, and by the time he gets out, he can break a dreadlock off.
- Exposed to the Elements: The team arrives in Calgary not remotely dressed for a Canadian winter.
- Extreme Doormat: Junior starts off as one until Yul verbally pounds him into standing up for himself with his, "I see pride!" pep talk.
- Failure Montage:
- The first Training Montage, unsurprisingly, is mainly one of these.
- A variation occurs when they're trying to find someone to sponsor their team, which leads to a montage of various company representatives all laughing at them.
- Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Junior's wealthy father stubbornly wants his son to devote his career to lucrative businesses far away from athletic sports.
- First Snow: Played for Laughs. The gang get their first taste of snow when they reach Calgary and are surprised by how friggin' cold it is.
- Fish out of Water: A group of Jamaicans trying to become a bobsled team?
- Flowery Insults: Sanka describes Yul as "the kind of club-toting, raw-meat-eating, Me-Tarzan-You-Jane-ing, big, bald bubblehead that can only count to ten if he's barefoot or wearing sandals."
- Freakier Than Fiction: If the film were created in 1987, how many people would believe it? Lampshaded throughout the film, as many of the characters don't believe it either.
- Germanic Efficiency: The Swiss bobsled team.
- Grievous Bottley Harm: During the Bar Brawl, one of the East Germans prepares to whack Yul with a beer bottle...and Junior hits him first. Then someone else hits Junior.
- Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Not 'evil' in the traditional sense, but Derice, who has wanted nothing more than to just compete in the Olympics, cannot understand why Irv would cheat when he already had two gold medals.
- Group Picture Ending: A team photo is taken after their last race, with the final shot of the film showing it being hung in Mr. Coolidge's office, above the photo of Irv and Derice's father.
- HA HA HANo: The stock reaction from businessmen whom the team seeks sponsorships from.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: That's Yul Brenner all over.
- Hates Being Touched: Yul, mostly because he hates everybody. He gets over it.
- Heroic BSoD: Yul, when Sanka and Junior inform him that the mansion Yul's always dreamed of earning is a photo of Buckingham Palace. Thankfully for Junior's support it does not last through the night.Junior: You go and get your palace, Yul Brenner.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: The Olympic community, especially the East Germans, was welcoming and friendly to the Jamaicans, completely the opposite of what the film portrays.
- I Am X, Son of Y: "My name is Derice Bannock. I'm Ben Bannock's son."
- I Was Quite a Looker: When Derice shows Irv the old photo of him with Ben Bannock (Derice's father), Irv admires his long-gone looks for a moment, then catches his current reflection in the frame glass.Irv: (looks at his picture) Heh, would you look at me then? (sees his reflection) Oof, would you look at me now?
- Improvised Training: For starters, the makeshift bobsled on wheels they practice on in Jamaica.
- Insult of Endearment: Yosef Grul's use of "Jamaica" for Derice evolves from dismissal to respect over the course of the movie.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Yul. He becomes a Defrosting Ice King as the movie goes on.
- Keep It Foreign: In the undubbed version, the Swiss bobsledders speak standard German (Hochdeutsch)note . In the German-dubbed version, the Swiss have a strong Swiss accent, as does the Jamaicans imitating them.
- Moving the Goalposts: The Powers That Be do this to try to keep Jamaica from qualifying. First, they keep shortening the time requirements. When Jamaica makes the cut anyway, they try to claim that it doesn't count. Irv calls them on it big time, and they relent.
- My Grandma Can Do Better Than You: When Yul is annoyed at Junior taking too long to get ready for a night out.Yul: Hurry up, man. I've got a dead grandmother that moves faster than you.
- Named After Somebody Famous: Yul Brenner's just one letter away.
- Lampshaded by Irv Blitzer's reaction upon hearing Yul's name.
- National Stereotypes: Jamaicans are cool, while German-speaking competitors are disciplined.
- No OSHA Compliance: Irv runs a clip about bobsledding, which happens to demonstrate just how dangerous it is.
- Oh, Crap!:
- When Sanka first reads about bobsledding, he reads the word "ice" and shits a brick.
- Derice upon witnessing some of the crashes shown in Irv's bobsledding presentation.
- Junior when he shows up for the meeting and sees Yul, who is still pissed at him.
- Derice's reaction when his wife shows up at the kissing booth. And then Sanka's reaction when he sees that the next woman in line is both very elderly and apparently toothless.
- The four Jamaicans upon seeing their first Canadian winter. See Up to Eleven.
- A milder example when Junior suggests calling their bobsled "Tallulah" and the others all laugh, with Sanka suggesting it "sounds like a $2 hooker", only for Junior to clarify quite calmly that it's his mother's name. The others hastily agree that it's not such a bad name, although they do ultimately go with "Cool Runnings" instead.
- One-Sided Arm-Wrestling: Yul Brenner has a montage where he effortlessly beats opponent after opponent for money so the team can travel to Canada for qualifiers. Then he is struggling and ultimately bested by... a large, burly woman.
- On Three: Derice doing this in German (to mimic the Swiss) throws his teammates off their game.
- Opposing Sports Team: Pretty much everyone else in the Winter Olympics, but mainly East Germany.''You have no business here, Jamaica!"
- Patriotic Fervor: Pride in Jamaican heritage is a consistent theme throughout the movie, including in the movies Rousing Speech and culminating in the following quote:Announcer: Where did these guys come from?
Bar Crowd: JAMAICA!!!
- Percussive Therapy: After losing money in a horse race, Irv takes his anger out on his radio.
- Polar Bears and Penguins: "You mean winter, as in Eskimos and igloos and penguins and ICE?"
- Rags to Riches: Junior's father went from "one-room hut" to "one of the biggest homes in Kingston". Yul has similar ambitions, which Junior encourages.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Derice and his boys slowly go from this to Fire-Forged Friends.
- Revenge by Proxy: Blitzer notices this, and prevents it from going ahead.
- Rousing Speech: Sanka gives a minor one prior to their second race about the importance of remembering their Jamaican heritage, despite their hostile treatment.
- Running Gag:
- "Sanka... You dead?" "Ya mon."
- "Greetings, Sled God!"
- Sanka's general struggles with the ICE.
- Scary Black Man: Yul.
- Self-Made Man: Junior says his father "started off in a one-room hut" and "now he lives in one of the biggest homes in Kingston".
- Shout-Out: The film title is inspired by a line from Bob Marley's song "Blackman Redemption" from his album Confrontation.
- Slow Clap: Started by East Germany's bobsledder near the ending.
- Spirited Competitor: The Jamaican team, but Derice in particular, who is the most focused in the sport, and is hungry to follow the legacy of his father, who was an Olympic sprinter.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: Taken Up to Eleven during the recruitment meeting. After Irv has shown and discusses the injury and death potential of bobsledding, the lights come on to reveal that all the attendees have split.
- Stock Footage: The real team's footage was used in the Olympic competition scenes and the crash scene was the real crash.
- Sure, Let's Go with That: The real life Jamaican bobsled team admitted that their crash was human error and that they lost fair and square; they jokingly approved of the movie's version where it was a faulty sled.
- Talking to the Dead: Derice talks to a picture of his father after failing to make the Olympic sprinting team (assuming, of course, that his father actually is dead)."Well, Papa, what do I do now?"
- Teach Him Anger:Yul: I see PRIDE! I see POWER! I see a badass mutha who don't take no crap off of NOBODY!
- Technician vs. Performer: The Swiss and East German teams are technicians; the Jamaicans are performers. One of those instances where the performers lose (though they nearly win), but still earn the technicians' respect.
- Title Drop: The team's mantra and rallying cry is Cool Runnings, which Derice explains means "peace be the journey."
- It's also the name of their sled, after Junior's suggestion of "Tallulah" is met with laughter until he explains that it's his mother's name.
- Training Montage: One when they're practicing the push start while in Jamaica, and one when they're training in Calgary.
- Tranquil Fury: When his teammates laugh at his suggestion of naming the bobsled "Tallulah", Junior doesn't get angry while informing them that it's his mother's name. He speaks very calmly and flatly indeed. The other guys hastily agree that it's not such a bad idea.
- Travelling Salesman Montage: Trying to get corporate sponsorship, everyone just laughs at them.note
- Took a Level in Kindness: Yul became notably more laid-back during the middle of the movie.
- Trick Dialogue: Junior practicing talking to his father with his dog.
- Truth in Television: Jamaica's team has at times held the push record for bobsled, they beat major competitors in 1994, and Jamaican-born Lascalles Brown is an Olympic medalist for Canada.
- Undercrank: Used for comedic effect during the team's arrival sequence at Calgary.
- Underdogs Never Lose: Averted. They transcended the need to win. (And a pretty unique way of being underdogs, too.)
- Up to Eleven: When faced with the Calgary winter, Sanka puts on everything in his clothing bag. Then he puts on his clothing bag.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story:
- Instead of the unanimous derision depicted in the film, the international Olympic community welcomed the Jamaicans with open arms, providing them with equipment and coaching, and one of the most supportive teams in real life was...that of East Germany.
- Outside of the crash footage at the climax of the film and the fact that Jamaica had an Olympic bobsled team that year, just about everything elseincluding the names of the actual participantswas a fictionalized creation.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Derice and Sanka josh around each other, but are each others' oldest friends. Later on, Yul and Junior becomes each other's best friends too.
- Welcome to the Caribbean, Mon!: At least, for the first act of the movie. Afterwards, we get the occasional shot of friends and family at home cheering their boys on.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Junior. He gets his "Well done" when he sees his father wearing a Jamaican Bobsledding T-shirt at the end.
- Worthy Opponent: Josef Grool finally recognizes the Jamaicans, and especially Derice, as this.Grool: Very good, Jamaica. We'll see you in four years, ja?
Derice: Yah, mon.