Review: Possibly you might never hear about it, but there’s a notorious Olympian known for his ill tenure in 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada. He’s the one whom the president of the committee, Frank King, addressed in a quintessential “some of you have even soared like an eagle” closing speech. He’s the one and the only Michael “Eddie” Edwards, the eagle.
Eddie the Eagle is a loose feel-good biopic of the famously unsuccessful Olympian; produced by Matthew Vaughn and directed by Dexter Fletcher. It revolves around the dream of a feet-defected kid Michael Edwards a.k.a. Eddie (portrayed with clumsy persona by Taron Egerton, Kingsman), who dreams to be an Olympic athlete since he’s little. Portrayed as having no natural talent of sports and being held down by his disability, Eddie never gives up; he literally tries every kind of sport. He almost makes it to the qualification of Great Britain’s downhill skier team, but he narrowly misses (or more correctly, is singled out from the team by the committee).
Eddie finally switches from downhill ski to ski jumping to max out his chance to qualify in Olympics for there are no British ski jumping athletes since the 1920s. He decamps in snowy Germany to train along with professional ski jumpers from Norway. There, Eddie meets his eventual coach, a fictional ex-American jumper, Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) – an amalgam of Eddie’s real life coaches. Together, they train like buddies to prepare Eddie to qualify in Calgary 1988.
Taking liberties to make this biopic a colorful, fun ‘slide, jump and land’ ride into the most intriguing period of the subject’s life, Eddie the Eagle devices all the finest zero-to-hero formulas (despite being cliché-laden) with warm comedy approach to break the ice cold. It is not a necessarily a zero-to-hero story; the subject doesn’t end up being a hero, a glorified zero instead. Its inventive zero-to-not-really-hero storyline juxtaposes perfectly with the message it carries out; and that’s what makes it warm.
Eddie the Eagle keeps repeating its message: not to give up on one’s dream, no matter what. Fletcher’s film relies much on that message to move the stories with all the spiritual fun and British comedy. It is corny at its finest and it is cliché-laden at its finest as well.
The acting department isn’t terrifically special; but both Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman make a very warm chemistry. Egerton plays a stiff and clumsy but determined Eddie, who doesn’t drink liquor but milk instead. His Eddie seems comical but, at the same time, anchored to a real life figure. Meanwhile, Jackman as a fictional character in a world of real-life characters is a great additional. There’s a tugging chemistry between them, which makes it feels electric.
Other supporting characters are amazing. Jo Hartley and Keith Allen as Eddie’s parents are warm. Jim Broadbent and Christopher Walken make both great cameos, which matter. The ensemble cast isn’t big; but they’re all as warm.
In the end, Eddie the Eagle devices a generic zero-to-(people’s)hero formula at its finest with a rare subject matter and a unique message. Fueled with Egerton-Jackman’s chemistry and a-very-British comedic style, it’s a simple but delightful sportsmanship dream
Eddie the Eagle (2016)