Movie Review: Eddie the Eagle

The tale of an irrepressible man with a big dream gets the glossy Hollywood treatment

Directed by Dexter Fletcher
With Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Christopher Walken

While based on a true story of a sports underdog, Eddie the Eagle takes great liberties with the facts surrounding British ski jumper Eddie Edwards and his 1988 Winter Olympic performance. But the simple message survives the Hollywood embellishments — the most important thing isn't winning but participating. Setting aside that it is not the “true” story, it is good if light entertainment. The film in its own way parallels the underdog story, as it has its more than its share of cliches but tries its best to succeed in winning over the emotions of the audience.

We first meet Eddie as a boy who dreams of going to the Olympics, despite medical issues that keep him housebound. Eddie's father repeats to him over and over again, “Eddie, you are not an athlete.” He has a more practical future in mind for his son. But Eddie is not the type that gives up. On the contrary, tell a little boy he can't walk, and he will want to fly. Indeed, Eddie, played as an adult by Taron Egerton, found a loophole that would allow him to go to the 1988 Olympics Winter Games in Calgary to compete in ski jumping. Britain had no other entrants in this event and the rules were so outdated that almost anyone could apply. But even so, it was a struggle to get the stamp of approval, at least as the film tells it. Eddie isn't the only one in need of help. He finds a washed-up skier living at a training camp and hounds him for advice. The always reliable Hugh Jackman plays Bronson Peary, who after losing his own Olympic dreams fell into a liquor bottle and never swam out.

Will Peary crawl out of the bottle long enough to help Eddie? While most filmgoers know the answer, somehow Jackman makes it a compelling question and gets people on the edge of the seat. We find out that Peary was coached by Warren Sharp, played in the film by Christopher Walken. A major disappointment in the film is that we see Walken's picture on a book jacket time and time again, but it is like waiting for Godot. He does eventually turn up though, but for a much smaller role than expected considering his prominent billing in the credits. Taron Egerton, though, performs wonderfully as a naive and clumsy boy full of hope and perseverance even though no one takes him seriously. The actor has not had very many big roles so far and this may be his lucky break. He and Jackman together more than make up for the brevity of Walken's role. Only the most heartless audience members will fail to be caught up in hoping Eddie will manage some level of ski-jumping success, and in the process redeem the broken dreams of his coach.

There are a few gratuitous scenes that don't work, such as other athletes bullying Eddie, but this is not enough to sink the film. It in the end is a decent enough escapist comedy with good intentions and an uplifting message. It could have used a little more cowbell, though.

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