Movie Review: Eddie the Eagle

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A young man with a dream to be an Olympian at any cost becomes the first British ski jumper in over 60 years.

starsfour

Dexter Fletcher, 2016

This movie tells the true story of Michael “Eddie” Edwards, a British ski jumper who charmed crowds at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. From childhood, Eddie (Taron Egerton) always had a dream of becoming an Olympian. As a young boy he takes up skiing, but the Olympic powers that be – particularly Dustin Target (Tim McInnerny) – refuse to allow him to compete thanks to his dorky personality. Not one to be deterred, Eddie discovers a loophole in the competition rules that give him the right to enter the Olympics as a ski jumper if he competes. Eddie’s first few attempts at the dangerous sport are, unsurprisingly, disastrous. Eventually Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), the drunken, reticent former ski jumper who works at the ski resort where Eddie trains, takes pity on Eddie and agrees to train him. On the road to the Olympics, they encounter a legion of naysayers and obstacles to overcome – but it’s just not a sports movie without a solid underdog tale, right?

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The thing is, the reason I went to see Eddie the Eagle is essentially just because Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman were adorable on the press tour. That’s it. So imagine my delight when I discovered that not only are they equally adorable in the movie proper, the movie itself is a fluffy confection of competently made adorableness that well and truly qualifies it for the annals of feel-good underdog sports movie fame. Similar to Mighty Ducks to Cool Runnings (a movie that gets a shout-out here – apparently the Jamaican bobsled team competed at the same Olympics), Eddie the Eagle is an uplifting movie that is largely family-friendly. It revels in its lovely locations, period-accurate costuming, and a fun 80s soundtrack, but doesn’t rely only on nostalgia to build sentiment. It hits all the story beats it needs to at all the right times. True, this isn’t a story with a high unpredictability factor, but with such a simple structure the filmmakers afford themselves plenty of room to give us sweet character moments, something this film has in spades.

Of course, the movie sits on the shoulders of its stars, both of whom handle their roles perfectly. Despite the costumer’s admirable effort to ugly him up, he’s completely adorable and utterly fearless as the eager Eddie. No matter how many obstacles are in his way, his buoyant cheer, charm, and kindness carry him through. He’s eminently watchable, and ably supported by Hugh Jackman, who has a lot of fun as the boozy, grumpy American. Their odd-couple dynamic is fun, but watching Peary melt under Eddie’s relentless warmth and optimism is a delight. There’s a solid supporting cast rallying them on, including Jo Hartley and Keith Allen as Eddie’s parents and a small role for Christopher Walken. Edvin Endre puts in an interesting, intense turn as champion ski jumper Matti Nykanen, with whom Eddie has one of the movie’s best scenes. This movie works for its sentimentality and its happy ending, not content to rest on its laurels and coast in for an easy victory – just like its titular character – and it’s a delight to watch.

Eddie the Eagle on IMDb

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