“I heard you were a champion so I was wondering… Maybe you could give me a few tips?” asks Eddie (Taron Egerton) who’s trying to learn ski jumping in order to qualify for the 1988 Winter Olympics. “Give up. There’s one for free,” replies Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) in the inspirational sports movie Eddie the Eagle.
Since he was a little boy Michael “Eddie” Edwards always wanted to be an Olympian. Growing up he tried sports from weight-lifting to javelin-throwing, but none of them seem to take. Then one day while at work with his father Eddie discovers skiing and actually turns out to be decent at the sport. Unfortunately for the wannabe Olympian, the British Olympic Association kicks him off the team, not because he’s a bad skier but because of his parents station in life; they’re working class people. Just as Eddie is about to give up on his dream he discovers ski jumping, and off he goes to attempt to learn the sport.
Of course Eddie, who’s now 22, is laughed at by the other athletes who’ve been practicing jumping since they were six. Eddie, however, has a courageous spirit and is eternally optimistic. He keeps trying to master the sport and meets former Olympic ski jumper Peary, who now drives a snow plow at the practice site, and approaches him for some pointers. At first, Peary wants nothing to do with the goofy kid. And then one night while he’s in his usual state of intoxication Peary gets tired of the other athletes picking on Eddie and gives him a few pointers about how to take off correctly from the ski ramp. Eddie, who has been successful jumping from the 40m ramp, tries too soon to do the same jump from the 70m ramp and injures himself badly enough to be taken to the hospital. Peary, who’s now in awe of Eddie’s determination, goes to visit him in the hospital and realizes Eddie is not going to quit. Instead of leaving him to fend for himself, Peary decides to help him qualify for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.
Based on a true story, Eddie the Eagle is an inspirational, feel-good, classic underdog film that’s raised even higher due to the performances and chemistry of its two leading men. Taron Egerton shines in his performance as Michael “Eddie” Edwards, not just by making himself look like the real life Eddie – which he does – but by capturing his determination, awkwardness, spirit, and heart. It’s impossible not to like and root for Eddie as he takes on the odds, battles bullies, and is challenged by his own country’s Olympic Association who change the rules suddenly to try to prevent Eddie from representing his country in the Olympics.
Hugh Jackman delivers another solid performance as Peary, the one-time Olympic champion who eventually befriends and coaches Eddie not just on the basics of ski jumping but how to really love the experience of soaring off the ramp, flying in the air, and sticking the perfect landing. It’s the chemistry and friendship between the two men that elevates Eddie the Eagle.
The ski jump scenes are wonderfully shot, capturing the tension and incredible height at the top of the 70m and 90m ski ramps. This critic’s hands actually started to sweat the first time Eddie went up the 70m ramp and looked down to where he was hoping to land. The actual ski jump scenes are awe-inspiring and heart-stopping.
Eddie the Eagle is an extremely entertaining, crowd-pleasing film that’s sure to have audiences cheering – and laughing – right up to the film’s credits. It reinforces great traditional values such as to always believe in yourself, work hard, chase after your dream, and ask for help when you need it. And, it does so without ever getting cheesy or campy.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some suggestive material, partial nudity and smoking
Release Date: February 26, 2016
Running Time: 105 minutes
Directed By: Dexter Fletcher