A cheery tale of unlikely sporting triumph, “Eddie the Eagle,” directed by Dexter Fletcher, offers up a retro feel-good yarn about the power of determination. While it’s often cookie-cutter sports movie conventional, you’d have to be stonehearted to remain uncharmed by the story of real-life British ski jumper Michael “Eddie” Edwards, played by rising star Taron Egerton.
As a kid, enthusiastic young Eddie declares he’s going to be an Olympian, despite his corrective leg braces and Coke-bottle glasses, to the bemusement of his sweetly supportive mum (Jo Hartley), and disappointment of his pragmatic working-class dad (Keith Allen). Training his sights on the Winter Olympics, he finds some success as a downhill skier, until the British Olympic team rudely turns up their noses up at him. But nothing stops Eddie, and armed with the knowledge that Britain hasn’t fielded a ski jumper since the 1920s, he figures the odds are in his favor to qualify for the Games.
Because winning isn’t what Eddie cares about – all he wants is to participate.
Eddie wins hearts with his unabashed chipper goofiness. Lacking natural talent and training, he relies on his can-do spirit and eagerness to fling himself down increasingly tall ski jumps. Certified hunk Egerton (“Kingsman,” “Legend”) has been given a typical Hollywood treatment to render himself homely – outlandish glasses and frizzy hair. But Egerton proves himself to be a performer lacking in vanity and gifted with physical chops.
There are many who will see “Eddie the Eagle” as a British “Cool Runnings.” It’s an apt comparison, and there is a reference to the Jamaican bobsled team. Both films culminate at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, and tell the tales of misfit athletes with indefatigable spirits striving for a piece of glory.
The screenplay, by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton, takes liberties with the real Eddie Edwards story. Eddie finds a drunken, washed-up American ski jumper in Germany to train him, Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a character who has been made up out of whole cloth, as the real Edwards trained with a pair of coaches in Lake Placid. But autobiographical details aren’t what this story’s about. The manipulation of the story details demonstrates the filmmakers’ skill in execution – like a perfect ski jump, they lean into that sweet spot of lovable underdog sports flick, and stick the landing.
Eddie the Eagle
Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Keith Allen, Jo Hartley, Mark Benton
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Length: 105 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (suggestive material, partial nudity, smoking)