Eddie the Eagle

Posted by Joel Copling on February 21, 2016

"Eddie the Eagle" approaches the story of its titular ski-jumping legend with a focus on that very descriptor: legend. Oh, not the term that refers to a fictional tale of the ancient and mythical but the one that positions its subject as the hero of such a tale. Michael "Eddie" Edwards, he of the bad knees, the enormous eyeglasses, and the chin jutted outward at an odd angle, had a dream to be an Olympic athlete. It was both an act of rebellion toward a father who believed his dream folly and one of self-esteem. The film about him, as written by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton, approaches the story instead as one of a person who wanted to achieve his goals simply because they could be achieved.

It's ultimately a way for the movie to evade any real insight by simplifying the act to something easily digestible for the viewer. This Eddie, played by Taron Egerton in quite a good performance as convincing physically as it is emotionally, is merely an agent for the film's central theme of resilience. The screenplay covers all of the beats of his character in the usual, bulletpoint fashion, then presents him with a challenge (to conquer jumps that range from 15 to ninety meters, which means, of course, that they only grow more dangerous the higher and longer they are), then chronicles the exact steps by which he overcame the challenge. It isn't stretching for what is essentially a familiar story in the world of sports, though at least that means it doesn't feel the need to manipulate emotion from its viewing audience in any particular way.

There isn't particularly heightened drama here, unless one counts the insertion of a villain character in an official from the British Olympics Assocation (played by Graham Fletcher-Cook) who, for entirely unknown reasons, tries to block Eddie's chances to become an Olympian in the sport of skiing and, later, ski-jumping. It's an odd subplot and just annoying enough to halt the proceedings whenever the man comes onscreen. When Eddie hires disgraced former ski-jumping champion Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) to coach him, the flow of their camaraderie quickly becomes the best thing about the film, but a lack of development for Bronson (beyond the tendency to drink and a rote subplot involving a completely wasted Christopher Walken as his estranged coach that goes nowhere) means he is also simply a tool in the film's mechanics.

The result is a movie that constantly undermines its own good intentions through a passive treatment of its subject. Simply put, as a character in the film about his desire to achieve this goal, Eddie isn't all that interesting, and the fact that every supporting character onscreen seems to exist as an extension upon himself means they are even less so. The production is a polished one, with director Dexter Fletcher handling the training sequences in particular with a verve and a nice control of the use of slow motion and shutter speed, but "Eddie the Eagle" simply hits all the points in a resigned sort of way. There isn't anything to separate this experience from that of every other movie telling the story of an underdog who beat the odds.

Film Information

Taron Egerton (Eddie Edwards), Hugh Jackman (Bronson Peary), Christopher Walken (Warren Sharp), Tim McInnerny (Target), Rune Temte (Bjorn), Edvin Endre (Matti Nykanen), Jim Broadbent (Announcer), Graham Fletcher-Cook (BOA Official).

Directed by Dexter Fletcher and written by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton.

Rated PG-13 (suggestive material, partial nudity, smoking).

105 minutes.

Released on February 26, 2016.