Make way for Eddie the Eagle: The Olympics aren't just for professionals.
Few associate the Olympic Games with amateurs despite the fact that founder of the International Olympic Committee Pierre de Coubertin championed the games as a platform for amateurism. The story of Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards -- as the first ski jumper to represent Great Britain at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta -- is a reminder of that foundation. Biopic film Eddie the Eagle brings the tale to life with a bit of laughter and plenty of tugs at the heartstrings.
Nine-year-old Eddie Edwards may have dodgy knees and a brace-encased leg to show for it, but that doesn't deter him from dreaming of one day being an Olympian. Whether it's holding his breath for 58 seconds underwater or jumping over homemade hurdles, Eddie is determined to find his sport. Fast forward to Eddie (Taron Egerton) all grown up and still clinging to his dream. Unfortunately, his working-class father (Keith Allen) is displeased with the time, energy and money invested in this dream. It doesn't help that Eddie's mother (Jo Hartley) continues to encourage this dream.
One day, while heading to work with his father, Eddie notices a skiing hill and decides that he should try to go to the Winter Olympics instead of the Summer ones, as he had been preparing. He quickly begins to practice downhill skiing and surprisingly excels, winning competition after competition. When the Olympic qualifiers arrive, one of the British Olympic Association officials (Mark Benton) informs him that he will never be Olympic material, implying that it is due to his common, working-class background.
Disappointed, Eddie returns home to pack up his downhill skiing memorabilia and Olympic dreams. While doing so, though, he realizes that he could compete in ski jumping since Great Britain has not participated in it 60 years and thus has no team, leaving him with no competition to qualify for the team. With little money in his pocket and his father's disapproval at his back, Eddie departs for an Olympic training facility in Germany.
There, Eddie soon injures himself on his first try off the 40-meter hill and realizes that ski jumping is not nearly as easy as he thought, particularly since the Olympic competition is on the 70- and 90-meter hills. When he solicits the advice of the Norwegian team -- comically all nude in a sauna -- they tell him that not only should he have started training at age six or younger but also that he will probably kill himself and so to stop. Eddie doesn't let their words discourage him and continues to practice.
Snow groomer and resident drunk Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) complains about Eddie's ruining the smooth slopes with his multiple falls and tells him to just stop trying already because he's going to kill himself. After a snide comment, Eddie discovers that Peary is a former US champion ski jumper and so begs Peary to coach him. Peary ignores his badgering requests, at least until he no longer can.
Eddie the Eagle doesn't shy from clichês and hokey dialogue. Easily a weakness for most movies, these become a strength in the face of the film's full, shameless embrace of such schmaltz. Eddie is a charismatic ball of sentimentality in his determination to be an Olympian despite his utter mediocrity as an athlete, and Peary as the drunken cynic serves as a great foil to Eddie and his unflappable optimism.
The solid performances of the leading actors thankfully keep the film away from cheesefest territory. Still relatively new to the industry, Taron Egerton brings a relentless energy and charisma to the rather odd character of Eddie. Opposite him, Hugh Jackman shows his tremendous experience as an actor in his complex portrayal of the washed up old talent of Bronson Peary. As such, the film balances Eddie's intense resolve and Peary's baggage as an athletic disappointment with enough jokes and plenty of heart to make it an easy but altogether inspiring watch.
Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox.