by Coop Cooper
Based on a true story, Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) was a sickly, awkward and unathletic British child who develops a tenacious fascination with the Olympics. After being discouraged by everyone – especially his blue collar father – at every turn, Eddie keeps formulating different plans to achieve his dream. He settles on downhill skiing as his best chance, but after years of training, he is kicked off the British Olympic team. He figures his next best chance is to try his hand at ski jumping, except Great Britain hasn’t had an Olympic ski jumper in competition since the 1920’s.
Undaunted, he impulsively travels to Germany to try the sport, but is laughed at by every coach and athlete in the sport. A hard-drinking snow plow driver and ex-American ski jumper, Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), gives Eddie a few tips out of pity, resulting in Eddie miraculously landing a 40m jump only to suffer serious injuries while attempting the 70m jump. Feeling responsible, Peary agrees to coach Eddie. No matter what obstacles appear in his path, Eddie’s determination and spirit eventually make him an international sensation at the 1988 Winter Olympics.
The obvious comparison here would be “Cool Runnings” about the Jamaican bobsledding team which has nearly the exact same story except with an ensemble cast: The athlete(s) Olympic attempted is thwarted, they come up with an idea to compete in a sport that their country does not participate in, enter the disgraced coach, they operate under the radar and qualify, the other teams sabotage and mock them, etc… all of the elements in the formula are there, but “Eddie” is far from being a rip-off. It’s an homage and an event that happened simultaneously with the Jamaican bobsledding team. In fact, the Jamaican team gets a nod in this film as they debuted in that very same 1988 Winter Olympics, under the same skepticism and ridicule.
After not impressing me too much in the 2014 comic book film “Kingsman: The Secret Service”, Teron Egerton proves he has A-list chops with his portrayal of lovable loser Eddie. Reminiscent of Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, Edgerton never breaks character, conveying both a painful awkwardness and an affable likability with ease. It’s no wonder why Edgerton is being considered to replace Harrison Ford in the young Han Solo spinoff film being developed by Disney (read: his career is about to take off). Jackman hams it up as the typical fallen jock who had all the talent and potential in the world, only to waste it in disgrace. He is so much like John Candy’s character in “Cool Runnings”, I would argue he was inspired by Candy’s performance, although Jackman plays it more like a softer version of his Wolverine character. Yet, like Candy, he is also lovable in a cranky sort of way and likewise receives his redemption in the end.
This film has a ton of heart, an exceptional soundtrack, worthy performances and crowd-pleasing finale. It’s a shame it hasn’t secured a wide theatrical release in America, but perhaps if word of mouth spreads about “Eddie the Eagle”, it might gain some traction. Heck, it has Hugh Jackman playing a burley American. That’s usually box office gold by default.
In addition to the movie, it’s also interesting to see what Eddie Edwards has been up to since his brush with fame nearly thirty years ago. Much like Bruce Jenner – but to a lesser degree – he has been quite the reality TV star, appearing on talk shows, game shows, dance competitions and many other media outlets, all while maintaining a modest life with his wife and children. He even recorded a couple of pop songs.
To top it off, the movie ends with the Van Halen song “Jump”. Can’t get much better than that. So far, “Eddie the Eagle” is the feel good movie of 2016 and destined to run as a double-feature with the likewise fantastic “Cool Runnings” until the end of time.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars