By Blake Nelson
“Eddie the Eagle” is an all-around feel-good movie, and nothing more, really. The story of an underdog who succeeds at his dreams despite all the barriers before him is touching but has been done the world over; however, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s done to death, because this film does a decent job with the underdog genre.
The movie is loosely based on the life of Michael Edwards, a ski jumper who made it to the Olympics through major setbacks and without the years of formal training that are usually required in the sport, with many parts changed for cinematic purposes.
The film follows Edwards’ story as he trained and eventually made it into the 1988 Winter Olympics. Taron Egerton plays Edwards, looking less suave than in his previous film “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” and much more like your average underdog — shy, a little inept, but with an unmistakable heart of gold.
By the time Egerton makes his appearance on screen, the film has already run the viewer through a montage of a childhood Edwards expressing his desire to be an Olympian through training mishaps and naive determination. It seems familiar right? Right from the beginning the tone of the film is fairly cliched.
And when you get to the third “No, you can’t do it” from Edwards’ movie father, the gratuitous use of cliches is nearly overwhelming. How many times do we need to have an unsupportive father on film in these underdog flicks?
After all this, we get the appearance of a purposefully scruffy Hugh Jackman playing Edwards’ alcoholic, burnout coach, Perry Bronson. Stumbling across Edwards, Jackman’s character can’t help but eventually be touched by Edwards’ sheer will and his wanting to be an Olympian.
Jackman shows off his knack for acting like an American by being tough yet supremely likable in the role of Bronson. The acting is lax on Jackman’s part with very little depth in lieu of a supporting role for Egerton’s character.
When it seems as though things couldn’t get any worse, every person on the planet is against Edwards reaching his goal — the Olympic Board that admits athletes, other ski jumpers, his own parents, but never himself.
Now it may seem that the movie is beating you over the head with all the cliches and overwrought, tension-building music, and it is. But you just can’t help liking Edwards and the uphill battles that he has to fight. Not to mention that the facial expressions that Egerton pulls off make his portrayal of the character pathetic and kind of funny.
Now maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but these kind of movies are just good, at a very base level — no technical or acting achievements necessary as long as the movie tells a moving story without trying to be something it’s not.
That is where the movie succeeds: in its ability to be overly pathetic, possibly a little self-aware and never trying too hard.
At the end of the film, even though Edwards suffers a defeat, it is a triumphant defeat because of all the effort that he put into just getting to the Olympics.
The underdog tropes that the movie uses are tantamount to leitmotifs used in film and plays, which notify the viewer when a specific emotion is trying to be conveyed. They may be tired but for what it’s worth the film uses them harmlessly. Although the film was hackneyed in its approach at best, it made for an easy watch that was enjoyable and a decent, not great, film.
Blake Nelson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @b_e_nelson.