Affectionately told underdog tale of a cool, if unlikely hero, wings it a bit

by Dave Phillips
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THERE must have been something in the air at the 1988 Winter Olympics. The event in Canada saw the world debut of Jamaica’s bobsleigh team – which of course became the basis for the plucky underdog classic, Cool Runnings.
But a bigger star that year was Great Britain’s Michael “Eddie” Edwards – a ski-jumper who ecstatically took last place in the three jumps that he participated in.
Retold with dollops of nostalgia and liberal helpings of Hollywood treatment, Eddie The Eagle (12A, 105mins) follows Eddie’s Olympic obsession from his early years.
Growing up in Gloucestershire in the 70s, the young Eddie fawns over a treasured glossy almanac of the Games and becomes determined to become an Olympian.
Undeterred by constrictive leg braces, a general lack of athletic prowess, and a tendency to injure himself, Eddie spends his childhood recreating the Olympic Games in the alleyways and fields of his neighbourhood.
Fast forward several years and many pairs of broken glasses later, and the patience of Mum (Jo Hartley) and Dad (Keith Allen) is thinning as the now almost-adult Eddie (Kingsman’s Taron Egerton) refuses to settle down and get a job, and persists with his dream – or at least, a more nuanced version of it.
Realising that despite his best efforts he may never qualify for any of the Olympic events, Eddie changes tack.
A little research shows that Great Britain has had far fewer athletes compete in the Winter Olympics, and nobody has ever represented the country in Ski Jumping. So, with cogs set in motion, Eddie sets out to fulfil his dream.
There is no denying the fact that Eddie the Eagle is a straightforward and predictable underdog story, and it takes a little while to settle into the sappy, mawkish tone set by director Dexter Fletcher.
Things are stepped up a notch when Eddie heads to train in Norway, and meets washed-up former jumper Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman).
Peary’s character – a hard-drinking former athlete who is bitter about his missed opportunities in life – adds a level of complexity to the story.
And, while the story and roles remain pleasantly straightforward, the introduction of Jackman to the mix alongside Egerton brings a level of depth that is noticeably lacking in the film’s first act.
Throw in some bullies to bypass, some officious snobbery from the committee, and a cameo from Christopher Walken, and you have more than enough elements to help the story along through its almost two-hour running length.
Eddie The Eagle, much like its subject matter, is a film that is clunky and ineffectual at times, but possesses something greater that causes its flaws to fade.
Dexter Fletcher’s vision – which starts out so sickly sweet and overwrought with halcyon day sentimentality – eventually transforms into a much more significant commentary on human potential.
While the film never stops being light and whimsical, there is something in the story of a boy from Gloucestershire pursuing his dream at all costs that is endearing and undeniably heart-warming to watch.
Just as films like Cool Runnings and The Mighty Ducks captured an underdog spirit for a generation growing up in the 90s, Eddie The Eagle deserves to become an underdog classic for a new generation.
The film is a guaranteed dose of feel-good vibes, and a reminder of that Olympian motto: the important thing in life is not to triumph but to compete.

Verdict: 7/10

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