|Eddie the Eagle|
| In its own enjoyably good-natured way, Eddie the Eagle both celebrates and undermines all that is held dear in sports competition and, by extension, movies about sports competition. Telling the story of Eddie The Eagle Edwards, an otherwise unassuming and somewhat goofy bloke from Gloucestershire who improbably became Britains first Olympic ski jumper at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, the film focuses on the glory of competing, rather than winning. Going into the Olympics, Eddie had no pretenses about being victorious in the ski jump competition or even placing or really doing any better than coming in dead last, but that didnt matter because all he wanted was to be an Olympian, thus fulfilling Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertins assertion that It is the struggle, not the victory, which is important.|
We are first introduced to Eddie as a young boy who develops an obsession with becoming an Olympian and tries out virtually every sport imaginable, despite one of his legs being in a brace due to a bad knee. His sweet-natured mother, Janette (Jo Hartley), is endlessly supportive and understanding as only a loving mother can be, while his father, Terry (Keith Allen), a gruff, blue-collar plasterer, cant see anything in Eddies dreams other than wasted time and energy (not to mention money). When Eddie becomes a young man, he discovers skiing, and when he doesnt make the cut for the British Olympic ski team, he learns that Britain has not had a competitive ski jumper in the Games since the 1920s, which leaves him a major window of opportunity ... assuming he can learn how to ski jump in less than a year.
Ever the resourceful, determinedsome might say delusionsort, Eddie heads out to Germany to train, where is enabled by a sultry bar owner (Iris Berben) who first tries to seduce him but ultimately gives him a place to stay, and Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a fictional American ski jumping prodigy who wasted his youthful talent on ego and lack of commitment, which put him crossways with his famous coach, Warren Sharp (Christopher Walken), and left him a brooding alcoholic. Its not hard to see why screenwriters Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton created the fictional Bronson character, as his cynicism, bitterness, and past failures provides a perfectly matched counterbalance to Eddie optimism, pluck, and hope for the future. In working together, Bronson gives Eddies dream some down-to-earth edge while Eddie helps him emerge from his 20-year cocoon of embittered exile from humanity.
Most of the film follows Eddie as he trains to be a ski jumper, which he first does completely on his own. Almost everyone seems to be against himstarting with his own father, followed by the sneering professional jumpers who are training at the same facility and see him as a misguided joke, and even the British Olympic Committee (embodied by Mark Bentons disdainful official), which actively tries to keep Eddie out of the Games by changing the rules of eligibility at the last minute lest the country be embarrassed by this goofy-looking guy with a strong underbite, thick glasses, and a barely pubescent whiff of a moustache who just wants to fulfill his dream competing in the Olympics.
Youll never be an Olympian, he is told on more than one occasion, which is, of course, just more fuel for the fire that compels him to keep trying. As portrayed by Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service), Eddie is immediately likeable if only because he is so relentlessly true to himself. If it werent based on a true story, you wouldnt be remiss to think that anyone this determined and resilient against others cynicism and mockery was little more than a screenwriters fantastical concoction. But, there is the real-life Eddie in archival video of the Games, proudly coming in last and basking in the media spotlight that quickly turned on him when journalists and sports writers recognized him as something unique and, in his own way, extraordinary.
As helmed by actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher, Eddie the Eagle is not itself particularly extraordinary, as it clings to a familiar underdog-sports-movie formula with nary a deviation. Yet, it is assembled with such love for its central character and his determined mission, its seams held together by an upbeat synthesizer score that sounds like outtakes from the Rocky IV (1986) soundtrack, that youd have to be pretty cynical yourself not to feel some tingling of excitement when Eddie soars, even if he lands many, many meters behind the competition.
Copyright 2016 James Kendrick
Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick
All images copyright 20th Century Fox
Overall Rating: (3)
Get a daily dose of Philadelphia Herald news through our daily email, its complimentary and keeps you fully up to date with world and business news as well.