Biographical films, especially ones that revolve around triumphs of the human spirit, can range from the truly inspirational The Pursuit of Happiness to award-bait films like the dull and manipulative The Blind Side to unmitigated disasters like the agonizing Patch Adams. However, very few of those films show the comedic side of life and this is where Eddie the Eagle comes in.
Refusing to take the story in an overly serious way and dwelling on the absurd side of the true story of Michael “Eddie” Edwards, Eddie the Eagle is crowd-pleasing and fun entertainment for the masses with plenty of help from the likable leads. Dexter Fletcher’s sensitive direction makes the story more than just afternoon TV fodder and turns it into something that is quite inspirational for an underdog film as well as an biographical film.
Rising star Taron Egerton plays the titular character, an incredibly optimistic yet under-talented 22-year old who dreams of being an Olympian to the annoyance of many, especially his stern father (Keith Allen). After many setbacks like peer pressure, lack of talent and criticism, he decides to become a ski jumper and sets off to Germany for training. Through his disastrous self-training, a drunken snow groomer Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) tells him to give up. Eventually, given their shared shunning from the other jumpers as well as Eddie’s insistence, they team up and try to get into the Winter Olympics in Calgary. Does he succeed?
Of course! It wouldn’t be a famous story if he didn’t! Eddie’s triumph has been well documented by Olympic broadcasts, interviews and even a book written by Eddie himself. But movies with predictable plots are still worthwhile viewing if the execution is above reproach and this is where Eddie the Eagle soars. Yes, the pun is definitely intended.
First off, the actors. Having exceeded my expectations in Kingsman: The Secret Service, Taron Egerton does it again in Eddie the Eagle. Egerton exudes a lovable, yet eccentric presence that could have ventured through cutesy and annoying territory, but he ends being identifiable and even relatable.
Basically reprising the scumbag-authority role like in Real Steel, Jackman has real chemistry with Egerton. The two share many funny moments like using actress Bo Derek as a reference point for motivation and they also deliver more-serious dramatic moments that can really stir the audience.
The supporting cast all give fine performances but don’t do much to stand out from their archetypes, with notable exceptions of Christopher Walken as Peary’s mentor and Edvin Endre as Matti “The Flying Finn” Nykanen, who has a great scene with Egerton in an elevator.
The directon by Dexter Fletcher is surprisingly light, especially if you have seen his earlier films. Considering the true story, and like Egerton’s performance, it rarely feels like it panders to the audience. It comes off more nostalgic and inspiring than overly obvious.
I also really loved the musical score by Matthew Margeson. It is so nostalgic and reminiscent of the 80’s that I was in heaven whenever I heard it. The use of Van Halen’s Jump in the climax was just icing on the cake.
In biographical film such as this, it’s easy to find flaws. The dramatized parts (and there are many) are just there to add drama, and they come off as embarrassingly clichéd. There’s also the film’s similarities to the 1993 film, Cool Runnings – which even get a reference at one point.
The predictability can be a turn-off to some and even the feel-good and wholesome tone can be a bit much, even for me but overall, Eddie the Eagle is a fun time. It might even inspire you to take up jumping yourself. I jumped from the cinema stairs to the floor so it obviously had some effect.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The digital and physical release of the film comes with three special features for Eddie the Eagle. They are comprehensive and a big welcome here, while not overstaying their welcome.
Firstly, “All or Nothing: The Hero’s Heart” shows the entire film-making journey in a simple and effective 30 Minute behind-the-scenes look. From the initial script that was ready 15 years ago to the final journey with the real Eddie Edwards on board the creative process and on set. Also a favourite of mine was the creation of the 70’s style musical score by Matthew Margeson.
Next is “Attitude it Altitude: Filming The Ski Jumps”. After watching the movie and holding my breath with every one of the ski jumps, to see how on earth they filmed this was awesome. How they attached the cameras on real Ski Jumpers to Hugh Jackman and Taron Edgerton’s turn on the slopes. And finally, “An Unlikely Friendship: Eddie and Peary”, follows the friendship and shenanigans of Hugh Jackman and Taron Edgerton on set during filming and the bond they form.
All in all, the features are great and focus in well on the subjects we care about.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Eddie The Eagle is released on Blu Ray & DVD August 3rd 2016 or Out Now on the iTunes Store.
Film review by Harris Dang. Special Features review by David Hunter. Image credit: Getty Images.