Eddie the Eagle
(20th Century Fox, 2016)
Michael “Eddie” Edwards is five or six years old. He’s going to the Olympics. No, really, he’s got his clothes on, his duffel bag packed, and he’s headed for the stairs. Mum stops him and says, “Eddie, where are you going?”
“To the Olympics.”
“Well, you’d better take this box to put your medals in.”
She hands Eddie a cigar box and he’s out front door. He walks down to the bus station at the end of the street. It’s pitch black outside.
This unlikely true tale gets more unlikely as it goes on. In another of our series of “Based On A True Story” movies, the hero of Eddie the Eagle is not typical, and he’s not an animated cartoon. But Eddie Edwards is the most determined and stubborn person you’ve ever seen.
What is interesting is the way the British Olympic Council works to keep him out of the Olympics. He doesn’t come from the right school. He doesn’t have class and charm. Basically the kid doesn’t have a chance. But Eddie doesn’t care, because this is his dream. And dreamers find a way. If one sport doesn’t work, he finds another one that does.
Eddie the Eagle is meant to be a crowd pleaser and perhaps goes a little far down the alley of the predictable. His mum approves of his dream but dad doesn’t. And when Eddie finds a mentor, you can see it sort of as a Rocky tale flipped on its head. However, Eddie himself is anything but predictable, and he’s the whole story, right? So there you go. Eventually, he settles for being a ski jumper, those guys who fly through the air and if they’re lucky, land without breaking any bones.
Eddie goes to Germany to train, and the scenes of snow-covered mountains are beautiful. And those mountains are very high. You start wondering if the Eagle is going to break his neck trying to learn his sport. Not many people of Eddie’s questionable ability would be brave enough even to start a dangerous career in competitive ski jumping, much less persevere. But we become convinced that Eddie is very different from most people, and yet very much human rather than superhuman.
If he’s no X-Man, his coach, Wolverine, er, Bronson Perry (Hugh Jackman) arguably is more than human, though he’s former Olympian turned snowplow driver. As the reluctant teacher won over by the hardheaded kid, Jackman adds some stardom to the cast, along with cameos by Christopher Walken and Jim Broadbent. Along the way, Eddie ends up teaching them a few things about sincerity and sportsmanship.
I really enjoyed the movie, mainly because it wasn’t about curling. Seriously, and with apologies to all you curling fans out there, I learned a lot about ski jumping–like they don’t use ski poles for balance or anything. And those slopes are really, really high, with the 90 meters (about 100 yards) being the pinnacle for the sport. OK, so I didn’t learn that much, except I think I’m now afraid of heights. I still liked the movie.
Thankfully there aren’t any teary-eyed moments in Eddie the Eagle, just some laughs and a lot of heart from what became Britain’s first ski hero since, well, forever. Eddie the Eagle is rated PG-13 for a bunch of hairy naked skiers in a Swedish spa and a training session where Hugh Jackman compares ski jumping to an imaginary sex scene with Bo Derek. Bo Derek might want to sue, but I don’t think anyone else will be offended. Enjoy!