Eddie the Eagle Review
Fly like an eagle!
It’s not about winning – it’s about taking part. That’s the motto of this heart-warming comedy that turns long-running British household name Eddie the Eagle into a big-screen hero.The story of Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards – the ultimate underdog - had all the makings of a Hollywood-fairytale, so it’s no surprise that it’s finally hitting the big screen. What's surprising that it’s taken this long. Eddie soared to worldwide fame back in the 1980s, as he appeared at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games as Britain’s only competitor in ski jumping. Finishing last in both of his two events, Eddie’s can-do spirit and unlikely story saw him become a household name and a worldwide hero. The biopic has been years in the making, with various mooted stars (Steve Coogan, Rupert Grint…) but has taken until now to actually hit cinemas.Everyone – no really, everyone – loves an underdog story, secretly or otherwise. The story we’re presented with in this film is a proper old-fashioned against-all-odds tale of the little guy making it. It’s a feel-good film, but it also veers just a little away from the truth. Dexter Fletcher’s film introduces us to an impossibly clumsy Eddie (Taron Egerton), who manages to trip over his bootlaces during pretty much every sporting endeavour. Eddie has the heart of a lion and the endurance of Mo Farah but the athletic prowess of Mr Blobby; that is until he sets his heart on representing GB at ski-jumping and finds himself a coach (Hugh Jackman), himself a former US-champion jumper.
In real life, Eddie was actually a pretty able sportsman who was forced to give up playing football after getting badly injured in his youth. Forced to turn to another sport, Cheltenham-born Eddie turned to the slopes, and it was only after the staggering costs of competitive Alpine Skiing put paid (pun intended) to a burgeoning career that our hero thought of ski-jumping. Far from being a klutz on the slopes, Eddie was actually at one time the ninth-fastest amateur on a downhill slope in the world, and with no British competitor for ski-jumping he saw a shot at glory.
The film replaces Eddie’s athletic competence with comedic clumsiness and just plain un-athleticism; from the outset we see Eddie’s dad discouraging him from sports despite his absolute passion for everything Olympic. Eventually Eddie makes a slight concession to his doubting father: he won’t try out for the Summer Olympics, it’s the Winter Olympics he’s got his eye on. After finding some success in downhill skiing, Eddie is eventually ejected from the British team for being, well, Eddie. Never to be deterred, he turns to ski jumping and the rest is history or should that be legend.
At first self-training – physical comedy abounds here – Eddie eventually attracts the help of former ski-jumper Bronson Peary, who begrudgingly helps the “crazy Brit”, partly because of Eddie’s spirit and partly because of his own harsh treatment by skiing’s elite. We all know how it turns out of course, Eddie captured hearts around the world and became an unwitting symbol of everything great about sport – despite coming dead last in both his events at the 1988 Calgary Games.
The Eddie story we’re presented with in this film is a proper old-fashioned against-all-the-odds tale of the little guy making it.
The film captures Eddie’s own magnetism and charisma, and is from start to finish a coming-of-age feel-good bonanza in the grand British tradition of Billy Elliot and The Full Monty. Egerton, by way of an awkward over-bite and a constant squint transforms himself into the lovable icon and is so likable that you can get over any innate silliness and really, really root for Eddie (even though you know he’s never going to get on the podium).
Quite a bit of the film’s story is fabricated – including the existence of Bronson Peary – but that doesn’t detract from any of the charm. Jackman’s gruff, moody Peary is the perfect foil to Egerton’s eternally optimistic Eddie, and the inclusion of Peary’s old grudges and Eddie’s bullying co-stars only adds to the emotional pull. And in the end, the only thing that matters is that Eddie did succeed: through perseverance, effort and spirit.
Eddie the Eagle is a classic sports film and a classic underdog story, so director Dexter Fletcher makes great use of all the long-standing conventions, including liberal use of music-backed training montages. As a result there’s no way anyone’s leaving the cinema after seeing this without a smile on their face.
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