Eddie the Eagle is based on the true story of Eddie Edwards (Egerton) an amateur skier who represented Great Britain during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada. Known early on for his tenacity, the movie represents him as a naive young man with a penchant for clumsiness. Failing every attempt to be qualified as a downhill skier, Eddie makes his way to Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany to learn and master the Olympic sport of ski jumping. While there, he’s openly ridiculed by all for his lack of talent, finance and balance. Taking notice of Eddie’s near suicidal commitment however, is former Olympic team washout Bronson Peary (Jackman), who takes him under his wing and trains him for success on the slopes.
Director Dexter Fletcher and company prove that is something that we all want; to be taken seriously and to be, at the very least, respected. By giving us a character who is treated with everything but respect for most of his life, we’re reminded that most of us simply want a shot at glory before we can be criticized. “Eddie the Eagle,” once more, plays similar tunes, but it’s so well-versed and impressive with the familiar that it’s also a cogent reminder that one doesn’t need to break boundaries to tell a story that’s important; all it needs is a different thematic direction and a couple of strong performances.
Screenwriters Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton are in such an easy position to turn “Eddie the Eagle” into, what I call, an “anti-character study,” similar to the Adam Sandler films of the 1990’s, where we take a buffoon character and just pick on him for the entire course of the film. Macaulay and Kelton realize they are operating on a field of landmines for this character in terms of making him the butt of every joke, but through a sensitive lens, they portray a sweet, sincere hero, who gets poked and prodded frequently, but never at the expense of cheap laughs. The respect they give Edwards is quite remarkable and mature, given the direction that would’ve easily sold more tickets.
Of course if you’re too cynical for a feel good sports movie you can at least appreciate the stellar cast rounded out by Taron Egerton. The man is destined for stardom providing the same underdog sensitivity he brought to Kingsman’s (2014) Eggsy only with a deft sense of comedic timing. Jackman isn’t at his best but boy does he seem to be having a lot of fun playing the permanently drunk Peary. He refers his flask as his “jacket,” and has a chemistry with Egerton that borders on brotherly. Jo Hartley and Keith Allen are polar opposites as Eddie’s parents and provide much of the humor in their back and forths. You can tell they both mean well yet Hartley is constantly undermining Allen’s pragmatic approach to Eddie’s struggles. She’s the dreamer, he’s the realist; both wear their characters well.
I think a lot of people will come out of the film saying, it’s so clichéd. To an extent, they’re not wrong. Each and every character is the prototype of what you would expect them to be, whether they are supporting Eddie or entirely against him. But I also don’t think it was always a detriment to the film. Sometimes the clichés worked.
I have emphasized the struggle aspect of the story, there is a lot of comedy thrown into the mix as well. The tone is upbeat throughout, even when Eddie has setbacks. While some of the failures are played for laughs (mostly early in the film), it’s mostly Eddie’s perseverance that makes this film endearing. It also feels like we’re laughing with Eddie rather than at him, since it seems Eddie’s in on the joke.
Eddie The Eagle gets a 7.0/10.
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