Based on the real story of Eddie Edwards, Eddie is a little kid obsessed with the Olympics. Nobody really supports him though. But even though he isn’t that good and he isn’t that smart, he has determination enough and becomes the first British ski jumper.
Eddie the Eagle is a film that forces a smile on your face. It enters your eyes and ears, bypasses the brain and tugs at your cheeks quite without your consent. By the time your brain catches up and tell you that it is all very sugary and thick like honey, it is too late. You already like it too much to turn it off.
Director Dexter Fletcher uses every weapon to bypass that brain. First, he shows us the kid Eddie Edwards who has glasses and a bad knee, but absolutely wants to be an athlete. Of course, he breaks his glasses again and again and his father groans in desperation, but in a loving, family-friendly way. Everything about this film is family friendly, brain friendly and mood friendly. And when Taron Egerton shows up to portray the young adult Eddie with a protruding chin and disarming boyishness, it is no longer possible to pretend that this is even a slightly serious movie.
It is a typical underdog story, similar to the first Jamaican bobsleigh team in Cool Runnings (which happened at the same Olympics!). Eddie, however, is all on his own. His father just wants him to become a plasterer like himself. And when the British ski team refuses to send him to the Olympics, he simply becomes the first British athlete to compete in an unusual but extreme sport: ski jumping. It is the kind of film in which Eddie looks at a Winter Olympics poster and lifts his eyebrows with a maniacal grin, while upbeat music starts playing.
It is sports movie making by a rulebook. The upbeat electronic music seems straight out of Hoosiers, and Eddie as a character seems a slightly more focused Forrest Gump. Part of the movie writes itself, because ski jumping is just mental. The biggest strength is that there is a good pace to the story and a good bit of humor. What is sacrificed in realism is made up in entertainment. Especially the relentless optimism of Eddie keeps us excited, and automatically rooting for him.
And then suddenly Hugh Jackman enters the film as a reluctant coach. He seems out of place on the slopes of Germany. He also takes away the spotlight from Eddie and honestly it confuses and dilutes the focus of the film. Suddenly the one story of Eddie turns into two stories, with Jackman as a washed-up ski jumper who needs to find himself again. He doesn’t convince as an American either. Eddies story is the more interesting one.
The antagonists are all a bit cartoonish. The Scandinavian and German jumpers all laugh at him, being dicks about life-threatening situations, and the British sports society is unbelievable rude. So, actually all the characters are cartoonish, including Jackman and Eddie’s parents. The big light is Taron Egerton’s performance as a slightly antisocial, pigheaded boy with his head in the clouds. The way he screws up his face makes you wonder whether he can actually see where he is flying.
Eddie the Eagle is light as a feather. It’s easy watching and highly enjoyable, while also ticking all the tried and tested boxes about underdog stories. It is simple honest fun, leaving you with that nice optimistic feeling.