Eddie the Eagle, directed by Dexter Fletcher and produced—in part—by Matthew Vaughn’s Marv Films, is loosely based on the life story of Michael Edwards, or Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, a British ski jumper that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics. The film is positioning itself as a feel-good movie, but does it stick the landing?
Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) knew from a young age that he wanted to one day compete in the Olympics. It didn’t matter what sport, he was just enamored with the Games and wished to compete. To say that Eddie was an unpopular child would be generous. He wore leg braces and was generally awkward with his thick glasses and jutting jaw. However, his Mum (Jo Hartley) always supported his dreams, while his father (Keith Allen) outright discouraged him, wanting his son to pursue more grounded endeavors. At some point, Eddie discovers skiing and becomes a good downhill skier. Unfortunately, his awkward and clumsy nature causes the British Olympic Committee to leave him off the team. In order to prove his detractors wrong, Eddie takes on ski jumping, as Britain’s ski jumping team is non-existent. Eddie heads for Germany in order to train there. While at a training site for the Norwegian ski jumping team, Eddie meets Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a washed up American ski jumper that had the talent to go all the way, but pissed it all away. Eddie eventually wins Peary over and the American agrees to train him. However, Eddie is thwarted at almost every turn by the British Olympic Committee, especially Dustin Target (Tim McInnerny). Will Eddie fulfill his dream to compete in the Winter Games? Well…yes, it’s historical fact, so yes.
Your enjoyment of Eddie the Eagle will wholly depend on how many sports/underdog film clichés you can handle before you lose your mind. It was pointed out to me by Dirty A that the film is essentially a remake of Cool Runnings, the similarities are so exact. So, the film is depending solely on the strength of Eddie as a character to drive interest. The problem with Eddie is that while he was totally likable and easy to root for, you’re left wondering at times if he’s just stubbornly determined and quirky or 2016’s Forrest Gump. The other issue I had with the film was that everything happens too easily for Eddie. It is never really explained how he’s getting money to pay for all his training and travel and I think that element would have added a nice layer to the film if the producers were actually interested in telling Eddie’s real story. What ends up happening, though, is that the filmmakers are more interested in telling “the legend” of Eddie Edwards. A lot of corners are cut in the narrative and some of the characters, including Jackman’s Peary, didn’t even exist in real life. Also, Target is a cartoonish villain as are the Norwegian skiers that make fun of Eddie as he trains. It’s just an easy, breezy film that doesn’t ask much of its audience or of itself to craft a compelling narrative.
The real bright spot in the cast is Egerton, who completely transforms himself into Eddie. Those who first learned of Egerton in Kingsman: The Secret Service will find him completely unrecognizable in this film. He does a good job in the role, proving himself to be a very skilled actor. Jackman on the other hand…. Look, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I love Hugh Jackman—he’s one of my favorite actors—but in this film, he’s merely Wolverine on skis, minus the sideburns. He has fun in the role, but the fact that his character is completely fictional is distracting in a film that’s supposed to be a biopic. Eddie’s parents are complete clichés as are the villains and it gets to the point that the only reason to see the film is for Egerton. Christopher Walken and Jim Broadbent put in cameos, with the latter being the more entertaining of the two.
Overall, Eddie the Eagle comes across as an 80s/90s TV-movie at best and not worthy of a theatrical release. It’s overly sentimental and so cliché-ridden that it is difficult to take it seriously. There are some really funny moments in there, but also some severely awkward ones as well—Bo Derek, that’s all I’ll say. Maybe catch it on cable, where it belongs.