Based on the advertisements, Eddie the Eagle may look like every sports underdog movie ever made. To some extent, it kind of is. Nobody can deny that the film isn’t without its clichés, but there’s also a fair deal that helps Eddie the Eagle soar much higher than expected. In an age when most biographical sports flicks are played with a straight face, Dexter Fletcher’s feel-good dramedy offers a welcome sense of humor and enormous heart. What’s more, it gives us one of the most lovable unlikely champions of recent memory. While the formula may be conventional, Eddie is anything but.
Taron Egerton from Kingsman: The Secret Service stars as Eddie Edwards, a quirky British man who has dreamed of going to the Olympics since childhood. The problem is that he isn’t the most coordinated chap. Just when it looks like Eddie’s exhausted every competition in the playbook, he finds his potential calling in ski jumping. Since Great Britain doesn’t have a ski jumping team, Eddie aspires to become the first of his kind and make it to the 1988 Winter Olympics. While Eddie reaches high, he can never seem to land on his feet. Enter Hugh Jackman as Bronson Peary, a former ski jumper who reluctantly agrees to be Eddie’s couch.
So we all know the drill. Eddie practices hard, believes in himself, and becomes the greatest ski jumper the world has ever seen, right? Well, not exactly. Without giving too much away, Eddie isn’t in this to win. He could care less if he goes home with a Gold, Silver, or Bronze medal. All he cares about is competing and following his dream. This makes for an encouraging moral that reminds us it’s not about winning or losing, but how you play the game. Eddie plays the game with more energy and passion than every other Olympian combined, becoming an infectious source of inspiration.
Looking a bit like a nerdy Austin Powers, Egerton easily could’ve portrayed Eddie as an over-the-top cartoon here. Yet, he finds just the right balance of being eccentric and being sincere, flawlessly capturing the man’s spirit. Meanwhile, Jackson puts a fresh spin on the drunken couch seeking redemption archetype, bringing genuine charm to the role. We also get nice supporting work from Jo Hartley and Keith Allen as Eddie’s parents, as well as a couple memorable cameos from Christopher Walken and Jim Broadbent. Some of the film’s antagonists can come off as a little too snooty, but they fortunately don’t take up that much screen time.
Eddie the Eagle is very much in the spirit of an inspirational sports movie we would’ve gotten in the 90’s. It’s actually fairly similar to Cool Runnings, which coincidentally focused on a team of underdogs at the 1988 Winter Olympics. Much like Eddie himself, there’s something very refreshing about this film’s lighter tone. It takes us back to a more innocent time, never afraid to be corny and certainly never afraid to inspire. Even if Eddie the Eagle can feel romanticized, you’d have to be the biggest sourpuss in the world not to be won over by it.