Inspirational sports films are a dime a dozen in Hollywood. There are some really great films in the genre that tell incredibly moving stories. With Eddie The Eagle, we have another one of these stories. While it isn’t anything you haven’t seen before, this is a film you can’t help but smile when you watch it. It’s a heartwarming story with a stellar central performance from Kingsman star Taron Egerton. While he is good in the Kingsman films, and was better in a small role in the Tom Hardy vehicle from 2015, Legend, this is the most committed performance of his young career. With Eddie The Eagle, you know exactly what you are going to get when you sit down to watch it. And through all it’s campy sports film cliches, this is a really fun film to watch.
The film is directed by Dexter Fletcher and along with Egerton stars Hugh Jackman with smaller roles for Jim Broadbent and Christopher Walken but features a cast of mostly unknown actors. Egerton stars as the title character, British ski jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, an uncoordinated but lovable underdog who aspires to be an Olympian more than anything. After several failed attempts to try summer sports, Eddie decides to take up skiing. When he is denied by the British Olympic committee for the downhill team, he decides to create his own one-man ski jumping team. Eddie embarks on a journey to prove he has what it takes to be an Olympian along with the help of a heavy drinking disgraced former American ski jumper (Jackman).
Everyone loves an underdog story, and that is exactly what this film is almost to a fault. The moment the film starts we get an automatic connection to Eddie. He is a goofy, awkward young kid trying to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Eddie finds support in his mother played by Jo Hartley. We are instantly attached to their relationship and their chemistry offers some of the films most touching scenes. Eddie faces all the typical obstacles we see our heroes take on in films like this one. He has an overbearing, unsupportive father played by Keith Allen. He has an issue with his legs that has plagued him as a child and kept him away from sports. But most obviously, there is the villain, a stuffy British Olympic committee who doesn’t like Eddie and attempts to bend the rules to make sure Eddie won’t be representing his country.
All of that works for the most part. Eddie’s dad and the Olympic committee are very cartoony villains. Yet, all of that just makes us cheer for Eddie even more. There is something inherently more endearing about Eddie than many other figures that have inhabited films in this genre. Egerton embodies the character and is the only reason this film works on the level it does. The films screenplay never relies on the Rocky Balboa-esque monologue, or other exposition to make us care.
There is never really anything that takes you out of the film. Often, there is some really obvious and poorly done CGI, particularly during some of the jumping scenes. But then there are brilliantly shot jumping sequences. If there is anything that is forgettable about this film, it is Hugh Jackman’s performance. Jackman does what he normally does in movies like this. His character is essentially a rehash of his character in Real Steel. In this film he is a cranky alcoholic trainer that follows the typical arc this type of character usually follows. But in a way, Jackman still breathes some life into a played out character type, and in part because it is not a Disney film (which these usually are) he is able to bring a sense of maturity to the film Disney doesn’t usually provide. Jackman uses his own charm and charisma to keep you involved in his character, even though it’s nothing particularly original from him.
Eddie The Eagle is campy but harmless fun that is a true crowd pleasing movie. It’s a family film with a little something for everyone. It is an interesting step forward for Egerton who has certainly shown his proclivity for diverse roles thus far. Above everything, this is a cliched sports dramedy with moments that will make you groan because of how corny this film can be. But you will come out on the other side grinning from ear to ear because it is just too damn charming to hate it.
“Eddie the Eagle”
Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Christopher Walken, Jim Broadbent
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Runtime: 106 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (for some suggestive material, partial nudity and smoking)