ReelBob: ‘Eddie the Eagle’

By Bob Bloom

Despite incorporating every cliché in the sports genre cinematic manual, “Eddie the Eagle” is an infectious and pleasing concoction that will amuse, entertain and, most importantly, inspire.

The film is based on the true story of Eddie Edwards who became a hero in Great Britain for defying the odds and competing in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics as a one-man British ski-jump team.

What is amazing about Eddie’s story is that he took up the sport a year before the Games. Yet, he had been preparing for the Olympics his entire life.

While some children dream of being singers, actors, doctors, lawyers or football or basketball stars, Eddie’s only dream was to be an Olympic athlete.

A childhood montage shows the undersized boy practicing — and failing — at event after event — the hurdles, the javelin, weightlifting, hammer throwing — until he discovered skiing. When he was cut from the British ski team, he chose ski jumping as his ticket into the Games.

What makes “Eddie the Eagle” so irresistible is the character’s consistent optimism. As portrayed by Taron Egerton (“Kingsman: The Secret Service”), Eddie is neither deterred nor discouraged, despite constant opposition — even from his disapproving father — as well as scorn and ridicule, not just from other athletes but from the British sports establishment as well.

Egerton’s performance elicits admiration for Eddie. Not only does it make you root for him, but it also gives you permission to overlook the usual cinematic baggage attached to such projects.

There’s the alcoholic former jumper star, played by Hugh Jackman, who continually turns Eddie away, until inspired by his dedication and determination. He then agrees to coach Eddie.

Not only does he help Eddie, but also, he gives up the bottle — or in this case, the flask.

The fact that the character is a fabrication of the screenwriters does not deter from the story at all.

The priggish and snobbish head of the British Olympic committee, as well as some of the tony British athletes, make sport of Eddie until he proves his worth and wins them to his side.

The film has a 1970s-80s aura surrounding it, with a bouncy and loud musical score that sounds like a TV promo for a Super Bowl or, perhaps, an Olympics.

The movie even ends on a freeze frame — a popular and overused technique of that era.

One of the film’s biggest assets is the second-unit direction by the legendary Vic Armstrong, whose action sequences for the James Bond franchise became one of the major factors in the series’ worldwide popularity.

Armstrong’s ski-jumping scenes take you into the process — through his camera work — as you share Eddie’s various tumbles and injuries through the young man’s eyes.

“Eddie the Eagle,” like “Hoosiers,” “Rudy,” “Miracle,” “My All American” and other sports biopics, takes liberties with the facts. It does not purport to be a documentary.

But you overlook that it strays from the truth because the movie’s major aim is to motivate and entertain.

And despite its formulaic approach, “Eddie the Eagle” does make your heart soar.

Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.

EDDIE THE EAGLE
3 stars out of 4
(PG-13), suggestive material, partial nudity, smoking

 

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