EDDIE THE EAGLE
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Jo Hartley, Christopher Walken
2016 embarks on another year of the Olympics as Rio de Janeiro hosts the summer games this year. It would only seem fitting that the studios are releasing films based on real life Olympic athletes that have left an impression. Eddie the Eagle opens just one week after the Jesse Owens inspired Race. Even as a little kid, Michael “Eddie” Edwards wanted to go to the Olympics. He had knee issues and wore a leg brace, but that didn’t stop him. He was often seen leaving his house trying to hitchhike to Rome for the 1960 games. Of course, his grumbling father stops him and picks him up at the bus stop. Even as the years pass, Eddie’s (now played by Taron Egerton) interest never goes away, and he switches his sights from the summer Olympics to winter and takes up skiing. He becomes a candidate for the downhill team, but doesn’t make the cut. Do you think this stops him? Nope. He then decides to try ski jumping even though London doesn’t have team.
He heads to Germany to start his training at the ripe age of 22 despite the fact that Olympians typically start their training at the age of five or six. The continual mockery by the other hopefuls doesn’t faze him. Need I remind you that he is bound and determined to make it to the Olympics? Hugh Jackman finally comes into play as Bronson Peary, a former ski jumper who is now the groundskeeper. He’s basically a washed up has-been who doesn’t know when to put the flask away. He begrudgingly becomes Eddie’s trainer and hopes to get him in shape time for the 1988 Calgary games.
I mentioned previously that this is inspired by a true story. How close does it follow the true story, I have no idea. It seems a bit formulaic to have Eddie’s mom (Hartley) be the supportive one with his dad being the one thinking that it’s all rubbish. Even the character of Bronson Peary is fictionalized. Either the real Eddie the Eagle did all of his own training by himself or his supposed trainers were too boring to be showcased in the movie version. Did the writers really have to make him a drunk? Eddie the Eagle presents that classic underdog story of resilience. At one random point early on, I was reminded of the John Candy movie Cool Runnings, the 1993 film about the Jamaican bobsled team. Low and behold, that very same team is mentioned in this film as it was the same Olympics. For some, it will be easy to dismiss this story as it seems almost too unrealistic due to fact that Eddie was so completely out of his element. You then begin to even question his sanity when he ski jumps off the 70 meter without any qualms whatsoever and then continues to reach for higher jumps and larger goals. This is all without a lifetime of training. Then again, he went and did it, which is something to be admired for.
The film really plays up the fact that no one, outside of his mom and Bronson Peary, wanted him to succeed. He’s mercilessly teased behind his back but doesn’t seem to get what’s being thrown in his direction. Despite his many shortcomings, Eddie was bound and determined to never give up. He never let his father or other athletes get in the way. He practiced his heart out in order to go after his dreams of competing in the Olympics. The film makes these messages very clear for the young athletes out there watching Eddie’s story. It may be about sports and athletic goals but you could apply them to any field.
The film caters toward a family demographic in every way and plays it pretty safe throughout. I don’t mean to say that it’s lazy or uninspiring, but it knows what aspect of the story it wants to tell and sticks to that. Every year Disney makes these kinds of movies, and I’ve grown tired of them. See my reviews of Million Dollar Arm or The Finest Hours as examples. This film is not by Disney, but instead 20th Century Fox, which might be why I enjoyed it more as it didn’t take those standard Disney approaches. There aren’t any annoying side characters trying to be funny, silly romantic sub plots, or an overly sentimental speech given to a team of players telling them to just do their best.
Michael “Eddie” Edwards is a good role to continue to showcase Taron Egerton. He’s a charming young actor who made a name for himself last year in Kingsman: The Secret Service. He’s a good looking guy, but tries a little too hard to play the nerdy awkward type. Apparently, the real Eddie had severe sight issues as well, which isn’t explained in the film. What’s more important is that Egerton makes him likeable and you root for him along the way when everyone else turns their nose on him. Christopher Walken pops up briefly at the very end as Bronson Peary’s former mentor. His image is used early on in the film, and you sit and wonder if he is ever going to show up. Using a big name actor for such a small part at the end makes it feel like the character is completely unnecessary and used as an easy way to end the film. This was what convinced me to do a little digging into what was fictionalized for the movie.
If you’re looking for a feel good film to offset those heavy Oscar films, go see Eddie the Eagle. I doubt it will have a lasting impact on the genre of sports films, but it will satisfy your Olympic itch as we patiently wait for the opening night ceremonies. Taron Egerton is a star on the rise. He was also seen in the Tom Hardy film Legend and starts filming the sequel to Kingsman soon.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? It’s feel-good kind of movie worthy of taking the family out for a matinee.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS