I'll be the first to admit that when I walked into the theater for this advanced screening of "Eddie the Eagle", I wasn't expecting much. Despite the proven actors lending their talents to the film, I was more than prepared to write this off as another formulaic underdog story. That being said, I wasn't exactly wrong, but there are some wrinkles here that make this an entirely enjoyable film. While we are all tired of the typical Hollywood feel-good fare, this film offers a bit more. It offers gumption, it brings some truly heart-felt performances, and it shows us a joyfully drunk Hugh Jackman.
Really, I can't emphasize this enough. Drunk Jackman is an awesome Jackman.
This is a MARV production, with Matthew Vaughn as producer, and the film very much feels as such. It's very crisp, very clean, with very stylized typefaces popping up here and there to remind you of the time period ( the 80's ). So yes, this is a pretty, homogenized and polished version of Olympic history, brought to you by a group that is terribly good at offering such fare. Hell, even the real Eddie Edwards has gone on record to say that this film is only about 5% factual. But that isn't to say that the film isn't good. It's merely guilty of the same crimes that nearly every other film of this sort has perpetrated. Director Dexter Fletcher should feel confident in that the film is in good, if not somewhat creatively mundane, company. Hello, "Cool Runnings".
The story here has two focuses. We have Eddie Edwards ( Taron Egerton ), who....after overcoming a childhood physical disability..... decides to become an Olympian. We also have Bronson Peary ( Hugh Jackman ), a disgraced Ski Jumper, that suddenly finds himself on a journey for redemption whilst coaching the aforementioned awkward athlete. As is normal for this sort of film, the two butt heads, but eventually become the best of friends. Here is the exact moment where I might roll my eyes, but I'll be damned.......the chemistry between these two actors feels honest. It feels real. It feels earned. Thank goodness, because other than this friendship, the rest of the film is filled by a slew of mean people that are mean because they are mean. Did that sound ridiculous? Good. It should. But again, that doesn't mean the movie is bad...
There is a sense of heightened reality within the film, lending a very Roald Dahl ambiance to the proceedings. The Father is a jerk, the mother is wonderful. Nearly every other athlete Eddie meets is a complete bully. There doesn't seem to be a genuine reason for any of it. It all serves as hurdles for Eddie to jump over. It isn't constant, either, and the change to the flow doesn't happen in a genuinely character-driven way. For example, Eddie is injured at one point, and the other teams gather in uproar over Eddie's training and subsequent injuries. The teams all blame Bronson for the issue, when literally any one of them could have helped beforehand had they not been so focused on acting like they were better than everyone. Hell, at this point, Bronson is the only one giving Eddie the time of day, albeit begrudgingly. Still, while there are hiccups in character logic at times, within the scope of a skewed view of the world that this film offers, it kind of works. This could very well be a ski jumper's story based in the same world as Harry Potter. Jerks are jerks, bullies are bullies, and Eddie may as well dwell in a little closet under the stairs.
While the movie does play things remarkably safe, there are some truly stand-out scenes and performances. You'll immediately see and hear Wolverine when Hugh Jackman's Bronson Peary makes his first appearance, mainly due to his particular swagger and practiced American accent, and a bit because he plays a drunk smoker who used to be the best there was at what he did. Ten minutes after his introduction, however, you will forget about his role as a mutant. Jackman sells his performance well, and a few moments in particular ( listen for the name Bo Derek ) will have you laughing. I should add, there is a scene with Jackman involving a 90 meter ramp that completely echoes Scott Pilgrim, and it couldn't be more perfect. At Hugh Jackman's eventual funeral, I sincerely hope they play that moment for those attending. The aforementioned swagger is relentless and gleeful.
I would be remiss if I didn't applaud Taron Egerton performance as Eddie Edwards, as the real Eddie Edwards himself has claimed that Egerton had done "a very, very good job." Edwards further added that "it's uncanny how much he looks like me," which speaks quite a bit to the dedication put into the role. Eddie, in the film, is goofy but entirely endearing. There is a question some might pose as to his end-goal. Is the point to be excellent? Is the goal to merely be among the excellent? Or, probably more correctly, is the goal to simply to be honest to yourself? The question and the answer gets muddled on occasion, but still....you'll probably find that you are cheering these characters despite yourself.
A mostly simple flick, there is depth here if you look a bit for it. Edwards journey to become an Olympian is mirrored by Peary's path of redemption ( again, "Cool Runnings" ), but the message is more about being the most honest version of yourself without falling prey to self-doubt and self-loathing. That's something pretty much everyone can root for. That and Drunk Hugh Jackman.