By Josh Melo
Eddie the Eagle (Review)
Fun, emotional and inspiring; Eddie the Eagle upholds a whimsical and entertaining tone while providing a truly stirring tale of perseverance. With a great cast and uplifting story Eddie the Eagle makes for a great way to spend a couple of hours, though, like the titular hero, the film probably won’t go home with any awards.
Born with bad knees, Eddie Edwards was told right from the start what he couldn’t do. In response, he dedicated his life to proving everyone wrong. Gifted with a book detailing the history of the Olympic games, the young Eddie made it his goal to become an Olympian. Trying his hand at many different sports, Edwards was written off before every getting a chance to show off what he could do. Whether it was the other children in the neighborhood or his own father, the only thing he would hear is, “you aren’t good enough.”
While out on a job with his father, he noticed people skiing and instantly fell in love. Finding renewed hope in his quest for Olympic fame; Eddie devoted the majority of his time to becoming the best skier he could be. Fast-forward to the 1988, Eddie fails to make the British Olympic ski team. Unwilling to let the naysayers keep him down, he switches gears to ski jumping, a sport Britain hadn’t competed in since the 1929 Olympics. Opposed at every turn by an Olympic committee that had already written him off, lifelong ski jumpers and just about everyone else, Eddie defies all odds in order to see his dreams come to fruition.
Based on a true story, the film adaption plays loose and fast with a lot of the historical facts, the biggest being the inclusion of completely fictional ski jumping coach, Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman). Despite the fact that the movie takes ample liberties, the feel-good nature of the story is largely intact. Taron Egerton imbues Eddie Edwards with a childlike ambivalence that instantly endears him towards the audience and begs viewers to try and not fall in love with him. There was a moment in the beginning where I felt Egerton’s portrayal may have fallen a little too far into embellishment but once the film gets underway every quirk and eccentricity adds to the adorable oddball that he is. You can’t help but feel emotionally invested in Eddie’s quest for recognition and every time he straps on his skis and takes to the mountain it feels as if you’re right there with him. From living in a supply closet and getting accosted by an elderly barkeep to almost dying in an ill advised attempt at learning the sport, Eddie the Eagle is a great blend of merry diversion and emotional poignancy.
As for speed bumps on the road to “his moment”, there are only three notable ones. First, and least of which, are the barely clothed Norwegian ski jumpers. Always popping in and poking fun at Eddie’s late start into the sport, they mainly play for laughs and rarely pose a real threat to Edward’s ultimate goal of competing on the grand stage. Second, the British Olympic Committee; altering rules and outright refusing Eddie admittance to the competition, they pose the largest role against his dreams. Third, and most important, his own father. Never showing any signs of support and constantly putting him down, Eddie’s father is the one major roadblock from reaching the proverbial gold. Yet, in the face of overwhelming opposition, Eddie takes all of these obstacles and turns them in to strength.
The way he brushes off each remark or works toward accomplishing the next task laid in front of him embodies the true message of the film: Never give up. I can’t imagine someone walking out of the theater not feeling inspired, or at minimum smiling. The thematic throughline combined with Egerton’s unflinchingly positive performance combine to make the feel-good film of the year.
Than you have Hugh Jackman’s Bronson Peary. While his character adds more levity to an already lighthearted film, his side narrative comes off as poorly conceived and ultimately unnecessary. He works well as Eddie’s coach and eventual friend, but the sob story that is his background and the random appearance of Christopher Walken failed to leave an impression.
For all of the feels the film invokes, there are some issues that keep it from becoming top of the line entertainment. Despite the list of adversaries Eddie faces on his journey, the fear of failure is never truly evident. Sure, he finishes in last place at the Olympics, but his goal was never to win, he just wanted to be there. In that regard, the film ends on more of a tinny clang than an outright bang. This issue derives from the fact that the true story upon which it is based was more of a viral phenomenon that soon faded once the event was over than a grueling tale of steadfast endurance. The film does comment, however briefly, on the notion that Eddie’s fame bordered on becoming a joke, but soon returns to the tale at hand.
Even with Egerton’s rousing speech about dedication to the sport and wanting to be taken seriously, the fact that he never had a hope of winning undermined the overall story. The inspirational tale of a man doing whatever it took to achieve his dreams remain intact, but realizing those dreams based on loopholes and sympathy (he doesn’t actually qualify for the Olympics, some curmudgeonly judges help him out) takes away from things a bit in my eyes.
And, to the films credit, the emphasis on Olympic achievement is underplayed and in its place stands the idea of doing one’s best. It’s a great message for a fun film and will have people leaving the cinema with, hopefully, a more positive outlook.
Eddie the Eagle has its issues, but from beginning to end it remains a lighthearted, emotional tale of inspiration. Check it out!
Overall, Eddie the Eagle gets a 7.5/10.