Saturday, February 27, 2016

'Eddie the Eagle' review

I don't think a movie like Eddie the Eagle needs much introduction. If you've seen the trailers, you should know what you're getting into with this film. The crowd-pleasing ski jumper flick hits all of the popular underdog story beats without even breaking a sweat. There aren't many surprises in store nor is the movie all that revolutionary. Instead, what you'll find is an immensely enjoyable experience, a satisfying winter diversion bolstered by two strong performances from Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman. Eddie the Eagle may not be overly interested in delving deeper into the lives of its characters, but it manages to keep you hooked with its well-calibrated mix of formula and style. It's a rock-solid film in every single sense of the word, and one that audiences will simply devour over the coming weeks. You've seen films like this before, but that doesn't stop Eddie the Eagle from working on nearly every level.


Throughout his whole life, people doubted Michael "Eddie" Edwards (Taron Egerton). He spends a year in the hospital as a kid with a leg injury, which causes everybody to tell Eddie that he shouldn't focus on sports.  But Eddie stays determined and tries his hand in a variety of sports, with the loving support of his mother (Jo Hartley). After failing in track and field, pole vaulting, hurdles, and more, Eddie turns to the Winter Olympics and attempts to become a world-class skier. He comes close to making the British National Team for the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, Canada, but he just misses the cut, mostly due to the objections of Dustin Target (Tim McInnery), the British Olympic Committee Chairman who will stop at nothing to make sure that Eddie doesn't end up in the Olympics.

And yet, Eddie doesn't give up. Instead, he turns to ski jumping, a sport that Britain hasn't participated in for decades. He packs his bags and travels to Germany to begin training for the games, leaving his job and his family to follow his dreams. But when he arrives, he's met with a rather cold reception. The world-class jumpers from Norway, Sweden and other expert countries turn away from Eddie and pretty much let him fail. He tries and fails and tries again, which leads hard-drinking former American jumper Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) to take notice. With Peary as his coach, Eddie's dream becomes a reality as he captures the hearts of millions and evolves into the lovable loser icon of the '88 games.

Sports movies are very formulaic. That's just the nature of the game, and they'll never change. That's why I'm always positively baffled when people complain about these types of movies and call them "cliched" or "predictable." Honestly- what did you expect? They follow a set trajectory and that path will never change. It's all about how well the story is told and the style that the filmmakers bring to the table. Eddie the Eagle is syrupy and sweet and very, very entertaining. Everything about it is good. It's not great, it's not mediocre, it's just plain good. It aims to be a solid B-movie and it hits that mark right on. You know how I said a few weeks back that movies like Zoolander 2 are easy to review? Well, movies like Eddie the Eagle make my job even easier.

If there's one weak point in this flashy sports biopic, it's the characters. Because while Eddie and Bronson are both likable, there's very little attempt by director Dexter Fletcher and screenwriters Sean Macauley and Simon Kelton to dig deeper and find out what really makes them tick. Bronson has a bit more of a clearly defined redemption arc, going from alcoholic, chain-smoking loser to admirable hero. Eddie's story is a bit more empty from a depth perspective. You like Eddie, and you feel for him because the whole world is against him, but there's not much to the character. If I was going to describe Eddie in a few words, I would say he's determined and.......well, that's about it. The film fails to answer the question of why Eddie is so insistent on being an Olympic champion. You just sorta have to accept that and move on.

What Eddie the Eagle lacks in substance, it makes up for in style and pure enjoyment. Set in the heart of the 1980s, the film effectively represents that era on the big screen. Big hair, loud colors and a thundering techno score from Matthew Margeson bring some vivid energy to the somewhat calculated story, creating a bright, poppy ride. The film comes in at a brisk 105 minutes, and every minute of that is authentic and satisfying, a lighthearted romp that works in equal parts comedy and drama. The audience at my screening ate this film up, cheering and laughing at the big moments as it progressed. Credit to the screenwriters on Fletcher for creating a film that is enormously fun and engrossing.

Eddie also gets a boost from two tremendous lead performances, both of which add some credibility and swagger to the mostly unknown story. It's sorta odd to see Jackman transitioning into the middle-age part of his career- he's hanging up his claws after one more ride as the Wolverine, and now, he's taking on a mentor role in an inspirational sports movie. And yet, like with everything he does, Jackman brings his all to the role, creating a character that is tender, hard-edged, and also completely made-up (look up some trivia for the movie, it's fascinating). Egerton, on the other hand, continues to solidify his spot as one of the great rising stars, essentially playing the opposite of his breakout character in last year's Kingsman: The Secret Service. This dude is seriously gonna be a force for years to come.

As long as your expectations are in check, you'll find that Eddie the Eagle is a terrific little February treat. Disney went and made a Coast Guard movie this year, so Fox picked up the slack and created what essentially plays out as this year's McFarland, USA/Million Dollar Arm, a sports movie with a bit more of a lively edge. Eddie the Eagle knows what it is, and it never attempts to go under the surface and find something more meaningful at the heart of this story. That will disappoint some audiences, but for most sports movie fans, Eddie the Eagle will be another great addition to the collection. It's a movie that is simply impossible to dislike.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                              (7.4/10)



Image Credits: Variety, LA Times, Guardian, Screen Rant

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