By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Normally I detest overly sentimental movies because they come across as artificial, saccharine and overtly manipulative. However, when a movie has a genuine heart at its core and tells a true and inspirational story, it is rather difficult in finding fault in someone for wanting to share it with the masses. Obviously the story of Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards and his aspirations of becoming an Olympic athlete and the accomplishment of this life-long goal has motivated screenwriters Sean Macaulay, Simon Kelton, and actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher to make a movie. And these filmmakers have managed to do it well.
Since he was a child struggling with some disabilities, Michael Edwards dreamed of participating in the Olympics. It would take some failures in multiple sports, but as an adult, Eddie (Taron Egerton) discovers that his ticket to the Olympic Games would happen through the sport of ski jumping. Despite the strong discouragement from his father, Eddie remains undaunted in his quest and boldly leaves home to train for the 1988 Calgary Winter Games. While Eddie painfully struggles to excel in the support, he catches the attention of former Olympic ski jumper Bronson Pearey who, at first, wants nothing to do with training him. However, Eddie’s tenacity inspires Pearey to become his coach and helps the scrappy kid barely qualify for the Olympics.
I have to say that Fletcher, his writers, and cast really won me over with this feel good, fun, and entertaining film. The movie genuinely works and I ate it all up–hook, line, and sinker. Though I am sure the film is written with the sole purpose of crowd-pleasing, I believe that it perfectly captures the can-do spirit and the joyful heart of Michael “Eddie” Edwards. The unlikely Olympian managed to win the hearts of the world in 1988. Because Fletcher, his writers and actor Taron Egerton have superbly captured the soul and essence of Eddie the Eagle, it really is hard not to love that crazy and silly bugger as a film character.
Anyone, who remembers watching the real Eddie during the 1998 games, will remember the joy they felt when seeing Eddie’s giddy and ecstatic behavior. His excitement and passion are the heart of this film and Fletcher and his writers have recreated that energy and present it well on the big screen. The film not only shows the joyful moments from Eddie’s life, but also reveals the truly trying times, particularly the obstacles and hurdles he had to overcome to see his dreams come true.
As Edwards, Taron Egerton delivers an award-worthy performance. This talented young actor made a great first impression in Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service and also delivers solid work in Brian Helgeland’s Legend. I think Egerton definitely has a bright future ahead and I hope he gets the opportunity to give audiences some truly amazing work. Hugh Jackman is absolutely perfect for the role of Bronson Pearey. The ex-ski jumper gets portrayed as a washed-up and grumpy alcoholic who managed to squander his real skills and talent when he once had the chance to achieve greatness. Hugh basically plays a toned-down and less feral version of Wolverine as Pearey, but it actually works despite the cliche traits of the character.
The movie also features solid performances by Jo Hartley as Eddie’s more positive and encouraging mother Jannette, Tim McInnerny as Target, Eddie’s not-so-supportive father, Ania Sowinski as Carrie, a ski bar proprietor who offers Eddie assistance, and several others including Christopher Walken as legendary coach, Warren Sharp. The real star, however, is Taron Egerton who puts as much heart and soul into his performance as the real Eddie put into accomplishing his goals.
That overall message of determination and hard work to achieve one’s dreams is an important one that often gets poor and lazy cinematic treatments. This problem only fuels cynicism when it comes this type of movie. Dexter Fletcher, Sean Macaulay, Simon Kelton, and Taron Egerton have made the genuine article, however. They have made a film true to what Michael “Eddie” Edwards stands for and that is a rarity these days. I suggest that movie fans enjoy these great ones when they do arrive and show them the support they need. Genuine hope and triumph are usually in short supply at the cinema in this day and age.