NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Movie Review: Eddie The Eagle

★★★ (out of four stars)

Sports movies are kind of a weird phenomenon, aren’t they? With a few notable exceptions, most of them follow one thoroughly predictable sort of formula or another — in the case of “Eddie the Eagle,” it’s the “misfit underdog is trained by washed-up former star” story. And yet, in spite of the genre’s limitations, audiences nearly always find enough to enjoy among the proceedings. Case in point: there wasn’t a single element in “Eddie” that I didn’t see coming at least a mile away, and yet I found myself smiling and laughing pretty much nonstop (save for the low points in the plot). That’s probably because of the goodwill the film builds up over the course of its running time: with superior character performances, quintessentially British humor and a touch as light as air.

The film is a fictionalized retelling of its namesake’s life story — Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards (Taron Egerton), who shocked the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics by completing his first-ever 90 meter ski jump at the event. That might sound like a strange accomplishment to be remembered by at first blush, and indeed Eddie’s story is by no means a typical tale of victory. This is a real-life “Rocky,” where it’s not about winning — it’s about a ludicrously inexperienced newcomer defying all expectations and going the distance, proving the naysayers wrong.

And boy, does Eddie have a lot of naysayers. They begin and end with his blue-collar father, who works as a plasterer and suggests that his son — who struggles with physical disabilities as a young child, only to be physically unspectacular once he overcomes them — do the same. But Eddie has his heart set on becoming an Olympian, having irked his dad countless times before by attempting to leave for the Olympics as a child, and by experimenting with all sorts of sports in the backyard (sometimes to the detriment of nearby windows). Just when his father has finally had it and delivered a crushing blow to his motivation — “You’ll never be an Olympian!” — he spies a ski slope near the plastering job site his father took him to.

“You were right, Dad. I’m not going to the Olympics,” he says. “I’m going to the Winter Olympics!”

Cue the montage of Eddie earning all manner of trophies in his new sport of choice, downhill skiing. Unfortunately, when it comes time to choose the member of his squad that will go to the Calgary competition in ‘88, the snooty British Olympic Association inform him — in essentially the same manner as his father — that he has no place there.
The unflappable Eddie won’t take no for an answer, of course, and sets out to find an Olympic sport so devoid of competition that they’ll have no choice but to let him in. His search doesn’t take long, and he’s soon off to practice ski jumping with absolutely no experience.
Watching the film, I became keenly aware of the way the human brain processes cliches, and how that can be detrimental to our ability to learn important lessons.ons. If the average person in our society had a nickel (hey, I can use cliches too!) for every time they were told to believe in themselves, never give up and/or be proud of who they are … well, let’s just say we wouldn’t have quite so many economic problems. But I’ve reviewed two films in the last two weeks now with characters who simply wouldn’t give up in the face of overwhelming obstacles — last week’s superb “Zootopia” featured a bunny who was told she couldn’t be a cop — and I have to say, despite being a hackneyed lesson, I think it’s an important lesson to learn.

We’ve all known an Eddie Edwards at some point in our lives; those people that seem like they have no chance of success, but pull everybody around them in with their infectious enthusiasm and dedication. In this film, Eddie gets a lot of people on his team by doing just that: his mother, the PR lady for the British Olympic Association and most importantly, Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) — a character I’ve neglected to mention so far because he was made up for the movie.

Peary is the old, washed-up ski jumper that trains Eddie to jump, and Jackman plays him just right — even when he’s going through the motions of refusing to help Eddie, as is required by Screenwriting 101, we can tell by the twinkle in his eye that he’s already caught the bug. And while the character may be fictional, I can see why he was written in; Jackman’s support — through humor and the occasional motivational speech — is crucial to the success of this version of the story, and his own little arc (involving a beef with his old coach, played by a sleepwalking Christopher Walken) adds some heft to his character, as well.

As a final note, you may anticipate that ski jumping is perhaps not the most exciting sport in the history of the Olympics, nor a particularly exciting one to watch on film. I dare you to watch the whole movie through and tell me the final skiing sequence — a ludicrously over-the-top bit complete with zooming, exaggerated reaction shots, slow motion and goofy green screen — is not one of the most hilarious and enjoyable stretches of sports film you’ve ever seen. Like Eddie himself, the film may not be perfect — far from it, in fact — but it pulls you along by the sheer magnitude of its spirit.

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