Suddenly the Olympic Games are hot stuff in the movies. No sooner did we have last week’s Race about track and field star Jesse Owens’ triumph in winning four gold medals at Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics, than this week we have an Olympic saga of a very different stripe.
No one wins any medals in Eddie The Eagle. In fact, Michael Eddie Edwards, a young British man with an Olympic dream, managed to come in dead last in both ski-jumping events he entered at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games. But as I say in my video review above, somehow he stole the show, and now the movie that has been made about this feat of just getting to compete will be stealing a lot of hearts — and laughs — along the way.
Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service) stars as Edwards, an awkward young Brit who has dreamed of being an Olympian his entire life. Only problem is there really isn’t much of a sport he excels at, and when he does go out for Britain’s downhill ski team, he gets cut. With his dream looking like it has been shattered, he discovers that no Brit has made the Olympics as a ski jumper since 1929, so he takes that up as a novice hoping to make the select British team that way. He does, kinda by accident, and it’s off to Calgary. Along the way he is befriended by a “coach” played by Hugh Jackman who was once a promising ski jumper himself, but blew it and spends most of his days now drinking. But he does, for whatever reason, see in Edwards the spirit he lost and helps him achieve his dream. One particularly funny sequence has the coach comparing taking flight on a slope to having sex with Eddie’s favorite movie star, Bo Derek. In fact, there is a lot of humor throughout the film, which despite slightly racy scenes like that, is really a perfect family movie.
There are lots of obstacles for Edwards in this loose adaptation by screenwriters Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton from the latter’s original story. Some of it is created for the movie, such as the relationship with the coach, but the essence is certainly there. Edwards becomes a celebrity not for what he accomplished in terms of wins, but what he did to inspire anyone who ever had a dream and found a way to do it. He really does grab the spotlight away from far more talented teammates who have spent their whole lives training for this big moment. It is pretty incredible that a novice can come in and achieve what Edwards managed to do in Calgary. Director Dexter Fletcher captures those Olympics with style and creates a few pulse-pounding moments as Eddie prepares for his jumps. You can say whatever you want about this guy, but he really is the poster child for perseverance.
Egerton is excellent and really has the audience rooting for him every step of the way. Jackman also seems to be having a lot of fun with the role, although it is hardly one of his most demanding. Christopher Walken as a former coach shows up briefly for some inspirational words, as does another Oscar winner, Jim Broadbent, who is the British announcer calling the shots. Matthew Vaughan, Adam Bohling, David Reid, Valerie Van Galder and Rupert MaConick are the producers. 20th Century Fox releases the movie on Friday.
Do you plan to see Eddie The Eagle? Let us know what you think.