An underdog with legitimate skill faces opposition and deterrents both within and outside the field and must overcome all obstacles to win. Sound familiar? That's because its basic plot of almost every sports movie at its core. Boil away some specifics and strip away the big name actors, you get that beginning sentence in a nutshell. Is that a problem? Not necessarily, if the baseline formula works, just add in a spice (read: spin, plot twist, etc) and you are all set.
But it's predictable, you spend less time in the theater enjoying the film and more trying to guess how the movie will play out. You call out the cliche portions of the movie instead of enjoying the element and wondering how it will play out in the film. Let's take a look at Eddie the Eagle to see how it does, is it just another inspirational feel good movie to forget or is there enough spice in it to make memorable?
Eddie (Taron Egerton) faces a general lack of athleticism that prevents him from completing his childhood dream of being an Olympian, however, this is squared away by a love a snow sports that permits his pursuit of the gold. His opposition is, interestingly, not a need to become better physically or a better athlete but rather a two-fold issue unrelated to his physical abilities in anyway. Eddie faces opposition from the British Olympic Commission because he is not the image of an Olympian. A dorky, mild klutz, from a less impressive background academically and financially, he does not merely lose the support of the British Commission but they in fact provide obstacles to prevent him from representing Britain in the Olympics for fear of embarrassment. This is pretty standard for a sports movie, the challenge can not just come from the sport itself, it's too simplistic. The true strength of the movie comes from Eddie's second dilemma.
Douchey preppy Englishmen aside, Eddie additionally faces the issue that Ski Jumping is a sport where even if you are good at it, you can still die. Eddie does not just have to be good, but he has to live. This is the spice that gives the movie its memorability, survival. This is something that you really only expect out of boxing or MMA fighting sports movie, not a movie about a Winter Olympics sport. This is the aspect of the movie that keeps you enthralled, fearing for Eddie's life as if you were one of the spectators watching him jump, wondering if the next sound will be the plop of landing or the snap of bone breaking.
However, this spice is still not enough to make it a blockbuster, let alone a classic. While anyone who goes to see this movie will enjoy it, they will not be oozing over it nor trying to explain to their friends why they must see this movie. While the sport itself is a twist, the rest of the film is still bogged down in unimpressive aspects.
Ironically, the biggest drag of this movie is Hugh Jackman as Eddie's reluctant at first, but eventually supportive coach. Maybe this would be an awesome change of pace from the actor if Real Steel did not exist, but Jackman essentially traded in fighting robots for skis and goggles. The reluctant coach turned caring is already a major sports cliche but hire an actor who has done this exact same role before was just a poor move on Director Shawn Levy's part.
Additionally, Jackman's storyline and character development in this film is just a forced element as if they are trying to hit every box on a checklist. Included on this list is the split of parents, one supportive, one not cliche. This movie adds too many frills and whistles that it thinks it needs when it should have focused on what made it special and unique, the sport itself, the Ski Jumping.
Eddie the Eagle will soar in its release but below the radar of most of America. A great feel good and inspirational story but hardly original or groundbreaking.