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United Kingdom 2016
Directed by
Dexter Fletche
106 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Chris Thompson
3.5 stars

Eddie The Eagle

Synopsis:  Since he was a boy, Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards (Taron Egerton) has dreamt of being an Olympian but when he finally accepts that he’s never going to succeed in the kinds of events that feature in the Summer Olympics he switches to the Winter Olympics and, eventually, the only event with no British competitor; ski jumping. Eddie travels to the ski-jumping training camp in Germany where he meets washed-up former American ski-jump champion, Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), who’s reduced to driving a snowplough and swigging from his hip flask. Reluctantly, Peary agrees to train Eddie and against all odds, the rank outsider finds himself competing in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta.

Eddie the Eagle is a film for all those who never got picked (or always got picked last) for the sporting teams at school. The difference, though, between Eddie and most of the rest of us is that his indefatigable sense of optimism and resilience makes him somehow impervious to the slings and arrows of those who would seek to deter him from pursuing his unlikely dream. It’s the epitome of the ‘heart-warming’ or ‘feel good’ movie and, whilst they might ordinarily be pejorative terms this film mostly gets away with it due in no small part to Egerton’s charming performance and the winning dynamic of his on-screen relationship with Jackman. Between them, they manage to rise above the bulk of the schmaltz and saccharine to give us a triumphant and enjoyable story (based on the life of the real Eddie Edwards who really did go to Calgary, although it feels like there might have been some liberties taken with the actual story).

What doesn’t work as well is the heavy-handedness of the forces of opposition as represented by his father, Terry (Keith Allen) and the head of the British Olympic Committee, Dustin Target (Tim McInnerny). Their one-note, relentless negativity locks those characters into the second dimension and, in the case of Eddie’s father, completely undercuts the inevitable “I’m proud of you, son” moment that has to come at the end. There’s also a brief appearance by Christopher Walken as Peary’s old coach Warren Sharp and a cameo from Jim Broadbent as a BBC Commentator. They’re both great actors but neither gets the opportunity to make very much of their respective roles.

Matthew Margeson’s soundtrack manages to place us well in the era with a very ‘80s sound that, at times, gives a nod toVangellis’ hit music from another Olympic story, Hugh Hudson’s Chariots of Fire (1981).  British actor turned director, Dexter Fletcher (Sunshine on Leith, 2013) brings few surprises to the film, following the well-worn path trodden by underdogs who improbably succeed in achieving their sporting dreams (Coincidentally, the members of the Jamaican bob-sledding team whose very similar story is told in Jon Turtletraub’s 1994 film, Cool Runnings, were also competitors at the 1988 Winter Olympics)

What’s refreshing here, though, is that Eddie’s dream is not of gold medals and standing on the high step of the podium; all he wants is to be an Olympian and, more than most of the other athletes depicted in the film, he embodies those idealistic qualities. When Target disparagingly tells him that the British team doesn’t want to be embarrassed by an amateur, Eddie guilelessly responds that he thought amateur athletes was what the Olympic ideal was all about. That’s really the message of the film.

In the end, despite its shortcomings, there’s more to like than not like about Eddie the Eagle and it’s almost impossible not to come out of it with a smile on your face.




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