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Eddie the Eagle is about a man who achieved success through the contagious energy of his boundless enthusiasm. So it’s only fitting that the movie succeeds largely through its own boundless enthusiasm projected through the screen.
Eddie the Eagle tells the tale of Eddie Edwards, whose lifelong dream was to compete in the Olympics. He gets the chance to live his dream in 1988, participating as Britain’s first ski jumper since 1929. Of course, since this is a sports movie, he meets plenty of resistance in the form of elitist officials, more experienced competitors, his own lack of experience and even a gruff, reluctant mentor.
It may seem like Eddie the Eagle is a bit cliché, a movie we have all seen before. But it manages to bring a freshness to the plate, a healthy dose of the aforementioned boundless enthusiasm. A large part of this has to do with the approach it takes. Eddie the Eagle is not about winning, it’s about showing up and being a part of the experience. Eddie Edwards had no illusions about becoming the best ski jumper in the world, or leaving Calgary with a shiny medal. He just wanted to be a part of the game, to represent his country on the global scale. And that’s what the movie is all about, finding an outlet for that passion, doing your best, even if it’s not the best. It’s much more Rudy than anything else.
What truly makes this approach work is the film’s lead. Taron Egerton showed us that he could be suave as well as a bit of a roughneck in last year’s Kingsman: The Secret Service (directed Eddie the Eagle producer Matthew Vaughn, a filmmaker with an unparalleled ability to have fun and bring it to the screen), and this time around he proves that he can pull of being a lovable dork. Eddie is the ultimate underdog, a man whose enthusiasm wins over all naysayers, and Egerton brings him onto the screen flawlessly. You practically want to climb to the front of the theater so you can give him a big, joyful hug.
Hugh Jackman continues to do what he does best as Eddie’s (fictional) coach Bronson Peary, a disgraced, alcoholic Olympic ski jumper that eventually teaches Eddie. The character is snarky, grizzled and cool as a cucumber, basically the role that Jackman got famous for playing, and he tackles it with aplomb. In fact, his ski jumping scene may be one of the most Wolverine moments he’s been a part of on screen.
Eddie the Eagle is a fun, heartfelt story that treads over familiar ground while simultaneously invigorating it. It treads over many tropes of the sports movie genre, but it never feels detrimental because of it. Perhaps it’s because it glances over many of them, or makes them feel a bit less corny – my personal favorite is that the snooty European rivals still rush to Eddie’s aid when he falls; they’re assholes, not sociopaths — maybe it just embraces them with such glee that you cannot hold it against them, it definitely has one of the most enjoyable training montages in some time.
Whatever confluence of elements came together to make this movie – cast, crew, characters – it’s produced a movie that’s a joy to watch. The action is exhilarating, the characters are charming, the story is heartwarming. It’s all you could ask for.