Sports films follow a formula, a blueprint that goes something like this: a determined nobody rises above his/her adversity and triumphs in a way no one thought he/she could, prompting peers to take them a bit more seriously. Eddie the Eagle, the latest sports flick, adheres to this formula with a faithfulness that is both smart and limiting. Its tight, safe script never once strays too far from its mission: instilling pride and strength in the underdog. It's a noble mission, one that will undoubtedly have audiences throwing themselves up and out of their seats in wild, jumping fits of crazed cheering. Eddie the Eagle may not be a perfect film, or even something close to it, but it inspires and enthralls in just about every way you can imagine it would.
Eddie the Eagle recounts the story of Eddie Edwards (an astoundingly endearing Taron Egerton), a plucky young athlete with lofty aspirations to become an Olympic ski-jumper. Underestimated and undervalued by his peers, Eddie enlists the help of former ski-jumper Bronson Peary (a cheesy but relatable Hugh Jackman), who, after much being subjected to more than a lifetime's share of coaxing, agrees to coach Eddie. The road isn't an easy one, and Eddie soon discovers that the only way to fulfill his dream is to believe in himself.
The movie has so much going for it, but what really makes it a treat to watch is its humor. The film genuinely wants to make us laugh, and it succeeds on numerous occasions. Granted, it's cheesy, feel-good humor, but it quickly and effectively pulls viewers in and keeps a tight hold on them until the credits roll.
However, as much as I loved Eddie the Eagle, I also recognize that it isn't without its shortcomings. The film plays it far too safe to be taken as anything beyond a feel-good sports movie, which ends up hindering it rather than helping it. It never feels like Eddie is in real danger of failing, mainly because he's depicted as such a happy, buoyant dude who doesn't let the notion of failure get him down. While these qualities are incredibly admirable, they don't lend themselves to a film that takes itself seriously. Sure, that's one of the film's biggest lessons, but it's not one that the film necessarily learns.
Now, I'm not saying the film doesn't have heart. In fact, it grapples with the opposite problem. The film's emotional power just feels a bit diluted by how overwhelmingly positive everything seems to be. The film's brightest, happiest scenes shine with a radiance that bleeds into the film's more somber moments, cushioning their impact and failing to make a real impression on viewers. It needed to balance the successes and the failures more deftly, more carefully, instead of drowning everything in positivity.
Complaints aside, Eddie the Eagle is an unbelievably uplifting, unabashedly inspiring tale that absolutely warrants multiple viewings. It's funny, charming, and a hell of a lot of fun, and it'll likely go down as a heavily-referenced sports movie about the power of belief in oneself.