The “Inspiring True Story Sports Movie” genre list just keeps growing with the addition of “Eddie the Eagle”. Michael “Eddie” Edwards entered the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada as Britain’s first representative in the Ski Jump competition. But how exactly did he get there? As is the case with most of the underdog sports world sagas, this film is all about the lengthy, mostly unknown journey leading-up to the main, well-known public events.
Though relatively modest in budget and scale, “Eddie the Eagle” is noticeably infused with Hollywood (and Australian) charm, thanks to Hugh Jackman, who plays Eddie’s coach and former USA Ski Jump champion Bronson Peary. He’s currently a down-and-out groundskeeper at a German Ski Jump training facility. But he decides to take an eager Eddie under his wing and help him try to qualify for the ’88 Games. But here’s the problem – Jackman’s character is a complete fabrication – he never existed. This is tough to accept in a “based on a true story” movie.
As a child and into early adulthood, Eddie (played by “Kingsman” star Taron Egerton) dreamed of somehow becoming an Olympian. This storyline is very similar to Rudy Ruettiger’s undeniable aspirations of playing football for Notre Dame (depicted in 1993’s “Rudy”, a member of the Inspirational Sports Movie Hall of Fame). Both young men were seeking their “moment”, and with a lot of determination and heart, got to prove their worth to themselves, as well as make their fathers proud.
“Eddie the Eagle” has a consistently fun rhythm, supported by a perfect keyboard-heavy 80’s score and soundtrack, which includes Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams” as the training montage tune, and Van Halen’s “Jump”. Egerton, who’s in practically every scene, is quite likable. And Jackman, in his best role since Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables”, adds some authenticity and genuine flare to his stereotypical character. The pair carry us through “Eddie the Eagle”, which moves along at a relatively breezy pace.
It’s too bad, with so much spirit, that “Eddie the Eagle” doesn’t pack enough dramatic punch in the story department. It’s traditional in every sense and, if downplayed a bit, could’ve been emotionally effective. Occasional moments of humor do work, along with a few nice touches, including a reference to The ’88 Games’ other unexpected media sensation, the Jamaican Bobsled Team. The visuals are surprisingly disappointing, bordering on corny, with only one, true wow moment late in the film. Christopher Walken and British staple Jim Broadbent make extended cameo appearances. This script could have used a little more cowbell.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Eddie the Eagle” gets a B-. It never soars, but keeps our interest and mostly succeeds in reaching its intended, wholesome goals.
Running Time: 106 min.