Following the success of his two previous efforts, Wild Bill and Sunshine on Leith, Dexter Fletcher directs this “feel good” biopic of notorious British ski jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, with Matthew Vaughn producing.
Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) is a young man who has spent his entire life dreaming to be an Olympian. Having eventually settled on competing at downhill skiing in the Winter Olympics he is turned down by the British Olympic Association, but discovers he could have a chance of making it as a ski jumper instead. Along the way he meets former ski jumping athlete Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) and despite initially rocky beginning forms a partnership in attempting to fulfil his Olympic ambitions.
First off Egerton and Jackman have a lot of chemistry together, and their scenes have a succinct, enjoyable rhythm both comically and in the films more dramatic moments. I was impressed with Egerton’s performance as Eddie, and felt he accomplished ably within his role in the film. Whilst Jackman is an experienced and charismatic screen veteran on point and at times enjoyable and humorous. However, yes I’m sorry there is a however, pretty much everything else about Eddie the Eagle felt somewhat underwhelming. I understand the presence of cliché and formula within filmmaking and that when used effectively they can create a narrative structure within which a film can build upon and develop into something unique to itself, but an over allowance of such can create a sense of uninspiring familiarity.
No one should have any business not enjoying a film about a man called Eddie the Eagle, an underdog, rising above his comrades by fighting for his right to be an Olympian, to be recognised for his attributes. Personally I love that kind of stuff, sign me up. Rocky? I love it. The Karate Kid? Must have seen it fifty times. Rudy? Tear jerking stuff. Eddie the Eagle? It comes across as shallow and formulaic. Like a check list of things needed to make a film about a sporting underdog. The real issue underlining this, well, have you heard of a film called Cool Runnings? I’m quite the fan. When I saw the poster I assumed Hugh Jackman was going to be the North American former pro who disgraced his own coach and now lives an introverted existence haunted by the guilt of what he did in the past, a bit like John Candy in Cool Runnings. Turns out I was right; though Candy was Canadian I suppose. What Cool Runnings had was an absurdist premise that was universally laughable. The challenge seemed greater, the film was funnier, and the execution was tearfully gratifying. It’s ideological consensus about the Olympics being an advent not of success in victory, but in teamwork, sportsmanship, and the struggles of competing itself were inspiring in 1993 and are still sort of now, twenty three years later, with Eddie the Eagle. Cool Runnings wasn’t without cliché or familiarity, but between the structure that these clichés created were interesting characters, great writing, and a swaggering reggae energy that gave the film a unique voice. Something Eddie the Eagle lacks.
Eddie the Eagle isn’t dislikeable. It lands a couple of steady emotional punches, but it doesn’t swing with anything you wouldn’t expect. Perhaps it’s fitting that a biopic about Eddie the Eagle should be a likeable underachievement. It sticks the landing and gets on the board, but does little else. If you haven’t seen Cool Runnings then it could be worth checking out. Or even better just watch Cool Runnings and, like me, you’ll be singing songs about the Jamaican bobsled team.
** out of *****
Review cobbled together by Alexander Halsall