Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Taron Egerton) had dreamed his whole life of going to the Olympics. Weak knees meant Eddie had to wear leg braces until he was 15. Once they were taken off, Eddie began training. While not the strongest, fastest and most graceful, Eddie never gave up on his dream of one day going to the Olympics despite the vocal doubts of his father Terry (Keith Allen). His doting and supportive mother Janette (Jo Hartley) always backed her son no matter how improbable his dreams appeared. Downhill skiing seemed like his sport and he did pretty well on the junior circuit; but he was denied even an attempt to try out for the Olympic team by the head of the British Olympic committee Dustin Target (Tim McInnerny). Eddie believed it was because he was from a lower-class working family and didn’t have the right pedigree. Eddie is about to give up on his dream when he sees a corner of a poster hanging on his wall that had been covered by other pictures. It showed ski jump hills. Britain had not had a ski jump team since 1929 and had no plans to send a team to the Calgary Canada Olympics of 1988. Eddie thought there would be no competition to get on the team so he decided to run off to Germany and practice at a training center there. After several crashes, Eddie is approached by Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) who oversees maintenance and grounds keeping of the ski center. Peary tells Eddie to give up as he expects him to break his neck. Eddie finds out Peary used to be an elite ski jumper for the United States but had a falling out with his coach Warren Sharp (Christopher Walken) and gave up the sport for booze. Eddie badgers Peary into coaching him so he can compete in the Olympics. When Eddie lands a qualifying jump in a competition he believes he’s on his way to Calgary; however, Mr. Target and the British Olympic committee change the rules to keep Eddie out as he’s seen as an embarrassment. Eddie and Peary then begin traveling around Europe, competing in every competition in an effort to meet the new requirements. Peary still believes Eddie is out of his mind but admires his dedication.
“Eddie the Eagle” is based on the true story of a guy who wears incredibly thick glasses and has a chin that appears to stick out a foot further than it should. He is an unlikely hero for a movie much less a worldwide phenomenon in a time before the internet. He is about the only thing I remember from the 1988 Olympics or, aside from the Miracle on Ice from 1980 and the massacre in Munich in 1972, any Olympics. It is a story of how the journey is more important than the destination and how trying is more important than winning. It turns Eddie into a lovably myopic zealot for his sport that must fight for the opportunity to compete simply because he doesn’t have the right look or upbringing in the eyes of the powers that be. While the facts of the real Eddie the Eagle aren’t quite as uplifting as are told in the movie, taking some cinematic license with events and characters makes the film quite an enjoyable and heartening time.
Taron Egerton looks quite different than the last time I saw him on screen in “Kingmen: The Secret Service.” With Eddie’s trademark coke-bottle-bottom glasses and jutting out his chin, Egerton at times looks mentally challenged. His mouth occasionally has a tick and when he gives a “thumbs up” it always looks stiff and awkward. Egerton gives a charming performance as the title character. It never feels like he’s trying to manipulate the audience into feeling sorry for Eddie. All the while we support what Eddie’s trying to do as he is making the effort for what appear to be the right reasons. Egerton does nothing flashy in the role and the performance is enhanced by how simple it is.
Hugh Jackman is, well, Hugh Jackman. His character, created from whole cloth, appears designed to be as opposite to Eddie as possible. Jackman’s Peary smokes and drinks and takes life very casually. Eddie does none of that. Dramatically it is a device as old as time but these two actors make it work. Jackman is such an easy and smooth presence on screen it should be against the law. He manages to make what should be an unlikable character into a kind of anti-hero. Despite all Peary says to Eddie to dissuade him from jumping he never comes off as mean or negative. While his decision to help Eddie feels a bit too easy and convenient, Peary as Eddie’s coach takes on a fatherly air, providing the kind of emotional support Eddie’s real father didn’t. Jackman slips into the role like it’s a comfortable old sweater and his performance is just as warm.
The story of “Eddie the Eagle” isn’t complicated and is told about as cleanly and efficiently as one could imagine. The film doesn’t waste any time in setting up the characters and situation. There are a few scenes that have an odd tone, such as when Eddie is found sleeping in a storage room by the female owner of the bar next to the German training facility and she attempts to seduce him. Also, the scenes where the British Olympic official attempts to keep Eddie from competing and Eddie has a prank played on him by another member of the British team feels a little heavy handed. The movie beats the class difference between Eddie and those that try to keep him off the team like a drum. It briefly takes the film down a darker path but fortunately these scenes don’t last very long. Fortunately director Dexter Fletcher gets the film back on its lighter track quickly after these brief reminders of who the world is always trying to beat Eddie down.
“Eddie the Eagle” is rated PG-13 for some suggestive material, partial nudity and smoking. The aforementioned attempt at seduction is somewhat suggestive. Eddie walks into a sauna and is confronted with the Norwegian men’s ski team nude. No full frontal or backsides are shown. There is one act of violence as a character gets punched in the face. There are also several ski jumping crashes shown. There is no foul language.
“Eddie the Eagle” is clearly a fantasy about a real person. Many facts were changed and people invented to tell a story that could have its emotion and inspiration amplified to the point where it’s nearly deafening. That said, the filmmakers have created a movie that will not offend anyone and many will find it makes them feel good as they walk out of the theatre. Its sweetness may be a bit overdone; but considering the climate of the world many will find it a refreshing change of pace.
“Eddie the Eagle” gets five stars.
This week, an action sequel goes across the pond, a journalist shows us the lighter side of war and animals are people too. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:
London Has Fallen—
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot—
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