Eddie the Eagle (2016, USA/United Kingdom, d. Dexter Fletcher, 105 Mins)
by Robert Joseph Butler
In the opening act of “Eddie the Eagle” the film hints at being a fresh and unconventional sports underdog story, but it doesn’t take long for the sports-movie cliches to kick in, and the end result is sappy, manipulative, and overly sentimental. The film’s subject is Michael “Eddie” Edwards, a British underdog with huge round glasses who doesn’t have much skill or coordination who eventually went onto to compete in the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Director Dexter Fletcher goes too far in cramming sentimentality down your throat, even though it’s based on a true story, the film doesn’t ring true in how overly earnest if feels. Hollywood loves to do this though, they want to manipulate your feelings and make you feel good after. Everything is about short term gratification here.
Which is a letdown because the first half of “Eddie the Eagle” feels more fresh, but eventually it falls into the typical inspirational sport movie trappings and formulas. Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) risks his body and life to become a ski-jumper at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary without any experience. However Eddie ends up finishing a 70m jump, overwhelmed with triumph and joy, Eddie ends up flapping his arms like an eagle. He ends up becoming a celebrity at the Olympic games that is embraced by the media outlets, which ends up taking attention away from the sport itself.
These elements could have developed into richer themes, yet the film stays to true to its predictable formula, while exploring ideas of how Edwards became famous not based on any athletic talent, but because of his sheer confidence. His optimism leads him to be a laughing stock sideshow to the crowd and to the press. This ends up frustrating his coach, former U.S. ski-jumper Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman).
Sadly, the filmmakers have no interest in diving into deeper themes and ideas. They are only interested in being light-heart and predictable. Egerton is sincere here as Edwards with his huge classes, however the character at times feels like a cartoon. While the skiing scenes are well staged and strikingly shot, the stunt work is quite superb. The danger of skiing is quite vivid here with its staging and perspective. As for the writing, “Eddie the Eagle” is just trite sports movie hokum. The filmmakers fail to take any risks in the narrative, from Bronson’s inspirational speech involving Bo Derek, to musical training montages over 80’s pop songs. There’s bullying by competitors for cheap buildup, a love interest for Jackman, and it all feels paint-by-the numbers. Yes Fletcher and writers are more interested in painting broad strokes of Edwards, than examining him as a wounded and vulnerable soul.