Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton soar into theaters this weekend in Eddie The Eagle, a liberally dramatized true story of British Olympian Eddie Edwards. Even though this film is rife with predictable elements and cliche characters, Eddie The Eagle is an underdog story people will adore.
The 1988 Winter Olympics were the motherlode of underdog stories. The Jamaican Bobsled team reach international acclaim during these games. However, the person that caught everyone off guard was a frumpish looking British athlete named Eddie Edwards. Eddie Edwards caught the world’s attention for being the first British Ski Jumper since 1922. In a field where everyone was out for glory, Edwards was just out for personal satisfaction. Edwards knew he had no shot at winning, and he was okay with it. His attitude was the living embodiment of the Olympic spirit and fans worldwide loved him.
Edwards is played by Taron Egerton. Egerton gained notoriety last year for his role as the tough kid turned secret agent in Kingsman: The Secret Service. He puts himself through a remarkable physical transformation to play the far-sighted Edwards. Egerton contorts his face into any array of grimaces and squints behind owlish glasses. Awkward both socially and physically, Edwards is nonetheless determined to compete in the Olympics.
Of course, in any sports related Hollywood dramatization, we always have that coach who scowls and doesn’t believe in the athlete at first; that part is played by Hugh Jackman. Jackman plays a fictional American, who ends up coaching because Edwards will not stop asking him. Jackman embodies every cliché ever seen in a coach on screen. There’s even part of a “Karate Kid ” like montage complete with a synthesizer-heavy musical score. What’s remarkable is that none of these cliché ridden elements detract from the film.
The reason for this is Sean Macaulay’s screenplay, which puts Edwards innocence and can-do spirit in the spotlight. Instead of sitting through the movie and bemoaning the predictability of the film, we are instead amazed everytime Edwards gets back up after wrecking on the slopes. Rather than rolling our eyes when we see Egerton and Jackman go through a cheesy montage scene, we hold our breath as Eddie ascends the 90m ski jump to compete in the event for the first time during the Olympic Final. Even though this film has all the elements of a movie that normally would be eviscerated, the sheer likeability of its indomitable hero plus Egerton’s winning portrayal of him compensate for these issues.
The director Dexter Fletcher also does a wonderful job capturing the beauty and danger of ski jumping. He manages to capture moments of sheer sportsmanship and sheer terror when a jumper experiences a catastrophic wipe-out. One cannot undersell how important this was to the overall film because, to understand just how amazing Edwards accomplishments were, it is essential to know how dangerous ski jumping truly is.
Eddie The Eagle will leave audiences full of good will and bursting with pride after watching this soaring comeback story.
Eddie the Eagle
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Taron Egerton, Jo Hartley, Christopher Walken, Edvin Endre, Tim McInnerny
Screenplay: Sean McCauley, Simon Kelton
Rating: PG-13; suggestive material, smoking, brief partial nudity
Running time: 105 min.