|Review by Clay N Ferno|
“The thrill of victory, ..and the agony of defeat” was the signature tag on ABC’s Wide World of Sports program depicting ski jumper Vinko Bogataj tumble in a fateful failed jump.
We are now two years away from the next Winter Olympics in PyeongChang when this movie about a victorious ski jumper hits the screen.
Eddie the Eagle tells the story of British ski jumper and famous underdog Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) and coach Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) preparing for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
Produced by Fox in association with Marv Films (Matthew Vaughn), this Dexter Fletcher directed film is full of heart and the spirit of amateur athletics driving men and women to pursue their dreams to become Olympic athletes.
The movie certainly has it’s moments of big screen action but for American audiences, the reverence to an underdog British sports icon might land the jump a few meters short of a qualifying distance.
While the story in the biopic is mostly made up, it is partially based on Eddie’s 1988 book Eddie the Eagle: My Story. We open to see a boy with a leg brace grow up to be the first British ski jumper since 1929.
Eddie (Egerton) doesn’t meet the requirements to join the downhill ski team in 1984 so shifts focus to ski jumping which he has never done before! He borrows enough to make it to the only ski jumping training facility in Europe, Garmisch in Southern Germany. There, he meets up with the fictional Bronson Peary (Jackman), an amalgamation of some of Eddie’s real life coaches at his real life training ground, Lake Placid.
Going from the smaller hill to the 70m run in the movie, Eddie gets the skiing part down but not the critical landing piece, but always seems to get back up to try again. The American groundskeeper Bronson Peary takes some persuading to help out Eddie but of course does to train him for the 70m.
The screenplay as a backbone to this story is a bit predictable, with the old drunk coach being coaxed out of retirement before the kid breaks his fool neck. There is a significant cameo with Christopher Walken playing the Qui-Gon to Jackman’s Obi-Wan in a voiceover as Eddie is learning how to ski from Warren Sharp’s (Walken) book.
I guess there comes a time in every studio filmmaker’s career where they need to make an 80s throwback winter sports montage movie — and this is that film for both Matthew Vaughn and Dexter Fletcher. From the Back To School Special and Quantum Leap synth theme score to mixed with songs from Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Thin Lizzy on the soundtrack the music captures the essence of the time.
Training montage? Check. Multiple training montages? Check.
This is certainly no Rocky IV, but sends a positive message to the PG-13 crowd that might go enjoy this picture. I’m not sure many will see this movie, though. It splits itself from being a very American underdog triumphing movie to a very British movie about a person that’s not in our American pop culture lexicon.
It’s funny but not a comedy, it is a sports movie about…skiing.
Eddie’s parents, the ‘join the family plastering business, lad’ father and the altogether too supportive mum (Jo Hartley) do warm the heart a bit and had me choking up near the end with their pride.
The unavoidable parallel to the ’93 John Candy movie Cool Runnings, also about a 1988 Calgary Olympic underdog Jamaican bobsled team is referenced in a funny way in the movie, but Eddie The Eagle as a studio movie might not make its money back or be standing on the podium at next year’s Oscar celebration.
Is this a bad movie? Not by any means. Eddie The Eagle succeeds in giving upcoming star Taron Egerton (Kingsmen: Secret Service, Legend) a chance to make a grumpy face, stick on a ski suit and sink himself into the character of Eddie Edwards. The twenty-six year old actor is one to watch and will star as Robin Hood in Robin Hood: Origins in 2017.
Hugh Jackman gets to be…Hugh Jackman and one ski jump scene had me imagining Logan aka Wolverine having an undocumented ski jump career before joining the X-Men, complete with smoking a cigarette as he barreled down the hill as if he were in a “Fastball Special”.
My usual recommendations for movies that are good but not great is wait until you see this at the Redbox or other digital streaming service rental of choice.
For this one, I’ll slightly downgrade that to wait until this hits the cable box unless the niche of downhill ski jumping is your favorite sport. In that case, head to the theater today to see if you can beat those Deadpool numbers!