The Olympic underdog story is nothing new. It has been tackled in Cool Runnings (1993) and Miracle (2004). Heck, even The Cutting Edge took a stab though it mixed the underdog sports story with a bit of romantic comedy. The story of a rag and tag group of outsiders, inspired by an unconventional coach, pulling together and accomplishing something great was told through those films is typical in nearly all sports films. That journey from the outsider coming from nothing to accomplish the impossible is what makes these movies popular. Even when these underdogs fail, they are usually celebrated for their courage and struggle (see the aforementioned Cool Runnings). It’s why we root for the underdog in real-life sports—unless you happen to have a bit of money on the favorite.
Eddie the Eagle falls into this category. The film follows Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards (Taron Egerton) as he follows his dream of being an Olympic athlete. He does not seem too concerned with the actual event, only it is in the Olympics. Through a series of unfortunate circumstances, with lack of athletic ability being at the top, Eddie is down to his last chance of Olympic glory, in the form of flying down a hill in excess of 70mph in a pair of skis and trying to land without breaking every bone in his body.
His journey to become an Olympic ski jumper sends him to Germany where he meets an unlikely and unwilling coach (Hugh Jackman) who has his own Olympic demons. Most may not remember the real Eddie Edwards but regardless of the number of obstacles placed in front of him, there seems to never be any real danger of him not getting to the Olympics. After all, they aren’t going to make a movie about a guy who almost gets to the Olympics.
Eddie the Eagle doesn’t pretend to be what it is; a feel-good movie. It will make people laugh and it may even make people feel. The opening montage of a young Eddie making numerous attempts at athletic glory was slightly heavy-handed. The parents, the opposing ski-jumpers, and even the British Olympic organizers all fit into their stereotypical film roles. The introduction of Hugh Jackman’s Bronson Peary felt like the answer to the question: what would Wolverine be like as a burned out Olympic ski jumper? The film hits its stride when he shakes of his Wolverine-esque persona and embraces the coach’s role. I found no reason why Christopher Walken’s role was even present in the film. His eventual appearance takes away from the story.
The movie was at its best when it embraced the crazy feat that is ski jumping and what it takes to not only be willing to do it but to not die from it. Taking the audience down the slope at those speeds was well done. The music was also a high point. It captured the time and made it feel like one of those classic 1980s movies I would rent and watch multiple times as kid. The movie is capably directed by Dexter Fletcher.
Finally, Taron Egerton’s performance should not go unnoticed. The film may have followed the same basic formula but Egerton was very good in bringing heart and reason to why someone would choose this crazy and dangerous journey. It is worth seeing the Eddie the Eagle for his performance.