UK Release Date: 1st April 2016
Runtime: 106 minutes
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Writer: Sean Macaulay, Simon Kelton
Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Keith Allen, Jo Hartley, Tim McInnerny, Iris Berben, Jim Broadbent, Mark Benton
Synopsis: Optimistic Brit Eddie Edwards decides his best shot at getting to the Olympics is as a ski jumper and promptly sets about winning the hearts of the whole world with his underdog antics.
With his Proclaimers-themed musical Sunshine On Leith, director Dexter Fletcher solidified himself as a practitioner of uplifting British cinema. This makes him a logical choice to step into the directorial chair for Eddie the Eagle, which traces one of the great underdog stories in British sporting history. With a sunny colour palette and a stranger than fiction central storyline, the stage is set for a truly thrilling Brit flick. Eddie the Eagle doesn’t quite stick the landing, but it certainly can’t be faulted for effort.
Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) is determined to reach the Olympics and pursues a series of sports in the hope of finding one in which he excels, much to the chagrin of his straight-shooting father (Keith Allen). He tries out for the downhill skiing team, but is rejected by the man in charge (Tim McInnerny). He decides to pursue ski jumping, as Britain has not fielded a competitor for years, and attempts to teach himself. He crashes and burns, until he meets whiskey-swilling ex-competitor Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman).
Eddie the Eagle epitomises the spirit of its central character in its main ethos. It’s a film that, above all else, tries really hard. The sheer degree of effort and spirit that has been put into producing the film gives it a real endearing charm that papers over some of the filmmaking cracks. It’s a ramshackle, mixed bag of a movie, but one that conducts itself with nothing less than an ear-to-ear grin on its face. Thankfully, it is able to pass some of that joy across to the audience.
I’ve been kicked off every team before I even got a chance to prove myself.
At the centre of the action is Taron Egerton, shedding the badass credentials of Kingsman for a performance that’s all cutesy accent and amiable gurning. Egerton keeps his performance on just the right side of caricature, but plays the character entirely for laughs. This isn’t a film that trades on emotional beats; it’s one that deals in broad strokes of uplifting narrative whilst keeping the audience smiling, even as misfortunes befall the characters. He could easily have slipped into something of a hoodie niche after Kingsman, but roles like Eddie show that Egerton is committed to becoming an actor with real range.
Egerton is balanced nicely by Hugh Jackman at his most gruff and sullen. A decade of playing Wolverine has allowed Jackman to turn moody quipping into something of an art form and he’s definitely on song here. Eddie the Eagle makes no attempt to subvert or comment on the traditional coach-student relationship and simply retreads the standard beats, albeit with not inconsiderable visual flair and charm. It’s often remarkable how much emotional mileage the film is able to get out of tropes and narrative techniques that have been thoroughly played out in the sports movie genre to date.
There’s nothing about Eddie the Eagle that’s risky and nothing that you wouldn’t expect from a movie billed and indeed executed as a straightforward cross between Rocky and Billy Elliot. There’s something admirable about its simplistic approach, even if it means that it’s a light-as-air story that vanishes from memory almost as soon as the credits roll. It’s fair to say that this isn’t going to have the same level of long-term appeal as Billy Elliot or The Full Monty, despite what the over-exuberant early reviews said.
I’m Eddie and I’m… oh my god… nude.
Eddie the Eagle is a breezy tale of sporting over-achievement in the face of adversity that conducts itself with a spring in its step and a smile on its face. It’s not attempting to break ground, shock or challenge and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Dexter Fletcher takes a sporting tale almost everyone knows about and retells it in a fun, if conventional, fashion through the prism of a deeply likeable central performance.
Pop or Poop?
It would be easy to dismiss Eddie the Eagle as a mere scrap of cinematic fluff, filled with sentimental guff and silly gags. However, that assessment fails to note the remarkable charm Dexter Fletcher and star Taron Egerton give to the material. In their hands, Eddie the Eagle is bright, breezy and an awful lot of fun.
It’s not all that memorable and all involved have done much better work, but there’s no denying Eddie the Eagle‘s appeal as a simple night out at the movies. You’re guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.