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.
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