Friday, February 26, 2016

Eddie the Eagle

It's fitting that at one point during Eddie the Eagle a sports announcer mentions the Jamaican bobsled team. Taking place during the same 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, the story of Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards (Taron Egerton) proves to be a fair companion piece to 1993's Cool Runnings about outsiders making their mark and earning a place in a sport that wanted nothing to do with them.

In truth there aren't that many sports stories. There's the tale of the underdog making good (Rocky, Rudy, Major League), the comeback (Rocky III, Cinderella Man), a team coming together to overcome incredible odds (We Are Marshall, Hoosiers, Miracle), and an old athlete given a last chance at redemption (Rocky Balboa, The Wrestler). We like these stories because the characters are recognizable, their goals are understandable, and journeys are worth rooting for. Eddie the Eagle uses several of these themes in presenting Eddie's story. The script by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton colors far less outside the lines than it's protagonist ever did, but Edward's story of a dreamer chasing the impossible simply works. It's exactly the feel-good sports movie you expect it to be.

Taron Egerton is largely unrecognizable as the goofy looking Eddie Edwards. With his heart on his sleeve, the lovable loser finds a way to convince even his harshest critics that his mad dreams are indeed worth fighting for. Director Dexter Fletcher knows his protagonist and makes it impossible not to root for Eddie to succeed. The lesson of chasing your dreams is a bit heavy-handed at times but sports movies aren't usually known for their subtlety. Hugh Jackman could play the role of the failed athlete and reluctant coach in his sleep. He's not asked to do much here, but he manages to steal a scene or two from what otherwise is completely Egerton's film.

Based on a remarkable true story of perseverance, Eddie the Eagle is a mostly by-the-book sports story that won't surprise or overwhelm you but does manage to entertain. Could Eddie's antagonists be more fleshed out and less cliched? Sure. Tim McInnerny is only missing a large mustache to twirl to complete his pefromance. With more plot devices than actual characters surrounding him, the film is certainly more interested in Eddie (and to a lesser extent his coach) than with the lives of any other characters in the film. Still, as a true underdog makes good tale, Eddie the Eagle earns its moment (however brief) in the sun.

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