The 400-Word Review: Eddie the Eagle
By Sean Collier
March 1, 2016
No hallmark of the big-screen sports tale is absent from Eddie the Eagle, the sickly-sweet comedy from director Dexter Fletcher and producer Matthew Vaughn (among others). There’s the sequence where the plucky hero discovers his sport of choice; the bit where the grizzled old veteran refuses to train the plucky hero; and the bit where all seems to be lost, only for a final opportunity to present itself at the last moment.
Actually, there are probably a half-dozen sequences in that last vein, as that’s the big takeaway from Eddie the Eagle — if you’re tenacious enough, you can meet reasonable goals.
It’s not exactly a life-changing mantra, but you’ve got a couple hours to kill, right?
Taron Egerton, practically doing theatrical mask work with a pair of oversized eyeglasses, stars as Eddie Edwards, an Olympic-obsessed British youth. As presented here — the real tale is less cinematic — Edwards was singularly focused on becoming an Olympian, with little regard for what sport took him to the games. When he’s rejected from the British downhill skiing team for being, you know, weird, he decides to take up ski jumping; the English haven’t had an Olympic ski jumper in decades, so all he has to do to make the ’88 Calgary games is learn how to do it.
That proves challenging, as hurtling through the air at high speeds before landing safely on a pair of skis is considerably trickier than, say, curling. Fortunately, he happens upon (mostly fictional) former ski-jumping great Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) at a German training facility. A proud alcoholic, the elder sportsman is initially reluctant to try and bring Edwards up to snuff; most jumping careers begin in childhood, after all. This being a sports movie, though, Peary eventually takes the gig.
A series of additional setbacks, mostly involving a skeptical British Olympic Committee, follow. Egerton and Jackman both play their parts with sincerity and dedication; more notably for the viewer, the jumping sequences are all compelling. Fletcher made the admirable decision to shoot Edwards’ attempts from a number of different angles and in a number of different ways, keeping a somewhat repetitive sport fresh for the viewer.
Eddie the Eagle breaks no new ground and certainly goes on for about 15 minutes too long. As it approaches its climax, however, it will be impossible not to root for Edwards. As always, the sports-flick formula works.
My Rating: 6/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark